THE HAGUE/NAIROBI, (Reuters) – Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto must attend all sessions of his trial at the International Criminal Court unless specifically excused, appeals judges ruled yesterday, putting the court at odds with Kenya and the African Union (AU).
Prosecutors promptly requested a similar ruling in the separate case of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who had like Ruto been granted blanket permission to be absent for the bulk of his trial.
Ruto and Kenyatta are charged with crimes against humanity in orchestrating a wave of violence after an election in 2007, but the cases have fed a growing sense of grievance among Africans, who say the court is picking unfairly on their continent. Kenya is both East Africa’s largest economy and an ally of the West against radical Islam in the region, especially neighbouring Somalia. Ruto and Kenyatta say at least one of them must be in Kenya at all times to ensure it is properly governed. The decision to excuse them had promised to ease some of the African resentment. But ICC President Sang-Hyun Song ruled on Friday that Ruto’s absence “can only take place in exceptional circumstances and must not become the rule”.