The Hague - The International Criminal Court on Tuesday
reversed a ruling that allowed Kenya's president Uhuru Kenyatta to attend only
parts of his trial, saying the African leader "as a general rule must be
present" in court.
"Any future requests to be excused from attending parts
of his trial will be considered on a case-by-case basis," The Hague-based
ICC said in a statement.
Kenyatta's trial on charges of masterminding some of the
2007-8 post-election violence in Kenya that left over 1 000 people dead and
several hundred thousand displaced, is set to start on 5 February.
Judges on 18 October partially excused Kenyatta in order for
him to deal with the aftermath of a Nairobi mall siege in September in which at
least 67 people died.
Two weeks later, the court postponed the trial's start date
after Kenyatta's lawyers said the attack on the upmarket Westgate mall -
claimed by Somalia's al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab insurgents - triggered a
"national and international crisis."
ICC judges on Tuesday ruled that Kenyatta's absence is
"only permissible under exceptional circumstances and must be limited to
what is strictly necessary".
Kenyatta, who was elected president in March, has long said
that the trial in the Netherlands would hamper his running of the country.
Prosecutors however argued Kenyatta's situation was the same
as that of fellow accused and Kenyan Vice President William Ruto, who was
instructed last month to be present at his own trial.
Both Kenyatta and Ruto face crimes against humanity charges
in separate trials. They were political opponents at the time of the post-poll
violence that shattered the east African country's image as a beacon of
stability in the region.
Ruto went on trial in September, becoming the highest-ranking
serving official to do so before the ICC.
Both men have pledged full co-operation with the court.
The court has been caught up in accusations that it is
targeting African leaders, with the African Union calling for immunity for
heads of state and asking the UN Security Council to suspend ICC proceedings
against Kenya's leaders for a year.
That request was turned down, although Kenya last week at a
meeting of ICC member states warned that putting Kenyatta and Ruto on trial
could compromise security in the often volatile region.
The country's attorney-general Githu Muigai said Kenya was a
"lynchpin" of security in the region warning that the African
powerhouse was "not in our humble view a country... the international
community should play Russian roulette with".
The United States, Britain and Israel all have close
military and intelligence ties with Nairobi.
Kenya plays a major part in regional military efforts to
stamp out al-Qaeda-linked militants who have turned neighbouring Somalia into a
major global jihadist hub.