What you need to know:
- The decision by Trial Chamber judges Kuniko Ozaki, Christine Van den Wyngaert and Chile Eboe-Osuji gives Mr Kenyatta, who is leading in the presidential vote count, time to deal with the immediate concerns even if the State House race goes to a run-off.
- The judges said the ruling will give defence teams for Mr Kenyatta and Mr Muthaura more time to prepare for the trials due to the delayed disclosure of evidence and witnesses by ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.
Jubilee presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta will stand trial on charges of crimes against humanity at The Hague from July 9, 2013.
The International Criminal Court Trial Chamber judges accepted the request of Mr Kenyatta’s defence team for postponement of the beginning of the trials and gave them three months more from the April 11, 2013, date.
The decision by Trial Chamber judges Kuniko Ozaki, Christine Van den Wyngaert and Chile Eboe-Osuji gives Mr Kenyatta, who is leading in the presidential vote count, time to deal with the immediate concerns even if the State House race goes to a run-off.
Mr Kenyatta is accused alongside former Head of Civil Service Francis Muthaura.
“The Chamber hereby vacates the trial commencement date of 11 April 2013, pending the resolution of these matters. Without prejudice to the Chamber’s determination of the issues raised by the defence applications and related filings, and in order to ensure sufficient time for their resolution, the Chamber provisionally sets the new date for the commencement of trial as 9 July 2013,” they said in their ruling Thursday.
The judges said the ruling will give defence teams for Mr Kenyatta and Mr Muthaura more time to prepare for the trials due to the delayed disclosure of evidence and witnesses by ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.
More importantly, it provides time for the Trial Chamber to consider and make a decision following the application by Mr Muthaura’s lawyers that his case should be referred back to the Pre-Trial Chamber given that the key witness in his case recanted his testimonies.
“Considering that on their face the defence applications requesting referral back to the Pre-Trial Chamber raise very serious issues that must be resolved before the trial can proceed and which may not be resolved before 11 April 2013, the Chamber provisionally sets the new date for the commencement of trial,” they said.
The judges said a ruling on a similar application by Jubilee presidential running mate William Ruto and former Kass Radio FM journalist Joshua Sang, will be issued on another date.
“The Defence teams in the case of William Samoei Ruto and Joshua arap Sang also submitted requests to postpone the opening of the trial, currently scheduled to be on 10 April 2013.
Trial Chamber V will issue its decision on these requests in due course,” they said.
Two weeks ago, Ms Bensouda said the ICC pre-trial chamber could not have been able to confirm the charges of crimes against humanity against Mr Muthaura without the evidence of witness Number Four — who has since been dropped by the prosecution.
She admitted that it was the prosecution’s error, which led the pre-trial chamber to confirm the charges against Mr Muthaura.
However, Ms Bensouda opposed the application by Mr Kenyatta’s defence team to have the case facing their clients referred to the Pre-Trial Chamber, stating that even without Witness Four’s evidence, the charges against the Jubilee presidential candidate cannot be dropped.
In her submission to the judges, Ms Bensouda said the April date could be pushed to August due to lack of courtrooms at The Hague and safety of witnesses.
“An August 2013 start date would therefore provide the defence with several months after receiving the delayed disclosure witnesses’ identities and unrelated materials to review those materials and conduct the associated preparations before trial begins,” she said.
She defended her office from accusations of failing to meet deadlines for disclosure of evidence and witnesses, saying that her team was ready for the trials.