Judges rule Kenyatta must attend Hague trial unless excused


Kenya’s president must request a leave of absence whenever he is unable to attend a session of his trial at the International Criminal Court, judges said on Tuesday in a ruling likely to further strain the ICC’s relationship with the country.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto face separate charges of crimes against humanity for their alleged role in orchestrating ethnic clashes after the 2007 elections, when more than 1,200 people died.

Judges trying the two men have been accommodating of their request that they need to be excused from court to attend to official duties at home and abroad.

But trial judges were told by an appeals chamber earlier this month that no suspect could be granted a blanket excusal. Absences must now be authorized by the judges on a case-by-case basis.

The court is already at odds with Kenya and its African Union allies, who warn that the charges against Kenyatta and Ruto risk destabilizing the entire East African region at a time of a growing threat of violence from Somali Islamist militants.

After a militant attack on a shopping mall in Kenya in October, African leaders urged Kenyatta not to turn up to his trial, which begins on February 4.

While a full boycott would be a blow to the credibility of the ICC, which has secured just one conviction over its first decade, Kenyatta and Ruto have so far always followed the ICC’s rulings to the letter.