4 Kenyan ICC suspects summoned to The Hague in JuneBy EMEKA-MAYAKA GEKARA in Nairobi | Sunday, May 13 2012 at 14:20
The trial preparations of the four Kenyans facing charges at the International Criminal Court kicks off in earnest on June 12 when the accused and their lawyers are scheduled to gather at The Hague for a preparatory conference.
A source familiar with the trial preparations told Kenya’s Sunday Nation newspaper from The Hague that trial judges have notified the parties to attend the status conference during which the rules of engagement will be defined including procedural matters and sequence of proceedings.
The status conference lays ground for the trial proper whose date would depend on the issues raised and efficiency of the parties.
During the meeting, the parties will have their first interaction with judges Christine van den Wyngaert (Belgium), Kuniko Ozaki (Japan) and Chile Obeo-Osuji of Nigeria who will preside over the trials.
The court’s decision is likely to dampen the spirits of Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki who is engaged in a last-ditch effort — both at home and abroad — to stop the proceedings at The Hague-based court.
It comes barely two weeks after he indicated to Parliament the government’s determination to set up a local court to try those suspected to have sponsored the 2007/8 post-election violence.
Days later, the President secured a resolution by the East Africa Community for the expansion of the jurisdiction of the East Africa Court of Justice to handle the Kenyan cases.
Similar efforts are underway at a gathering of legal experts from the African Union working on a similar resolution.
The lawyers meeting in Addis Ababa are exploring ways of implementing a January resolution of AU leaders seeking to expand the scope of the Africa Court of Justice to enable it to take over ICC cases involving African leaders — Sudan President Omar al-Bashir and Kenya’s Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, Eldoret North MP William Ruto, former Head of Public Service Francis Muthaura and radio journalist Joshua Sang, who were on January 23 committed to trial for crimes against humanity that were carried out during the violence.
During the conference, judges will set a timetable for the start of trials and disclosure of witnesses and evidence between the prosecutor and defence. The accused have an option of attending the conference in person.
Mr Karim Khan, who is leading Mr Muthaura’s defence team, on Saturday confirmed the summons and said he would attend the conference with members of his team.
However, he was no-committal on whether his client will be present. “It is a usual court occurrence during which issues are agreed upon relating to evidence, procedure and sequence of the proceedings. Attendance of the accused at status conferences is optional,” he said in a phone interview.
A lawyer who spoke under the cover of anonymity said by the decision, the ICC had “called the government’s bluff".
“The ICC is testing the government and suspects’ commitment to co-operate with the court,” he said.
Explaining the significance of the conference in a recent conversation, ICC spokesman Fadil Abdallah said it is largely a house-keeping affair.
“The parties will present their observations to the chamber on their preparedness, which will review them and establish a timetable for trials proper,” he said.
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