The Hague - Kenyan Vice President William Ruto must attend
his crimes against humanity trial before the International Criminal Court and
can only be excused under "exceptional circumstances", the ICC ruled
"The appeals chamber deems it appropriate to
reverse" an earlier ruling excusing Ruto from most of his trial before the
Hague court, said Judge Sang-Hyun Song.
Nevertheless, appeals judges agreed that "in
exceptional circumstances the chamber may excuse an accused from continuous
presence at trial", Song said.
Ruto said earlier this month that he wanted his trial to be
suspended or for him to be excused so that he could deal with the fallout from
last month's militant attack on Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall which left at
least 67 people dead.
The ICC put Ruto's trial on hold for a week after the attack
so that he could return to Kenya and deal with the security situation.
Ruto went on trial last month, the highest-ranking serving
official to do so before the ICC, 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.
Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta's trial on similar charges is
due to start next month, although he has been partially excused from attending
all of his trial to allow him to fulfill his "demanding" political
duties at home.
Ruto appeared confident as he arrived at court on Friday,
joining his supporters for a group prayer ahead of the hearing.
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.
Judges ruled in July that Ruto could be excused from parts
of his trial, but suspended that decision a month later after prosecutor Fatou
Victims of the post-election violence had also opposed the
ruling excusing Ruto from most of his trial, which required his absence to be
"seen to be directed to his duties of state".
In Friday's ruling, judges noted that the accused is
"not merely a passive observer of the trial but an active
Therefore, decisions on excusing Ruto from parts of his
trial must be taken on a case-by-case basis and his absence "must not
become the rule".
Any absence must be limited to what is "strictly
necessary", Song said, and judges must have considered all other
alternatives, including changes to the trial schedule.
Appeals judges said that the trial chamber in July had
"interpreted the scope of its discretion too broadly and therefore
exceeded the limits of its discretionary power".
July's ruling had "provided Ruto with a blanket excusal
even before the trial commenced, effectively making his absence a general rule
and his presence an exception", Song said.
Ruto, 46, and Kenyan radio boss Joshua arap Sang, 38, stand
accused of stoking the worst violence in the east African country since
independence in 1963.
Both Ruto and his one-time foe and now political partner,
Kenyatta, who also goes on trial on 12 November on similar charges, have
pledged their co-operation with the court and are maintaining their innocence.
Kenyatta, who was elected president in March, has long
argued that his trial would hamper his running of the country.
The Kenyan president is currently only required to be in
court for the trial opening, the verdict as well as when victims are giving
testimony against him.