Prosecutors want Kenyatta at full trial

The Hague - International Criminal Court prosecutors asked judges Monday to reverse a ruling allowing Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta to attend only parts of his trial, after a similar decision involving his deputy was overturned last week.

Appeals judges ruled on Friday that Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto must attend his own crimes against humanity trial, saying Ruto could only be excused under “exceptional circumstances.”

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. Credit: Associated Press

The court on October 18 partially excused Kenyatta to allow him to fulfil his duties at home following a deadly attack on a Nairobi shopping mall last month.

“The prosecution submits that the trial chamber should vacate the (October 18) Kenyatta decision and revert to the general rule... that Mr Kenyatta must (also) be present during trial,” chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in an application before the court.

Kenyatta, who was elected president in March, has long said that the trial in The Hague would hamper his running of the country - even though he has pledged his full cooperation.

Prosecutors argued that the situation was the same as Ruto's, and the Kenyan president should also be instructed to be present at the whole trial, which could run up to several years.

Kenyatta and Ruto are both charged with crimes against humanity in connection with the 2007-8 post-election violence in Kenya that left over 1,000 people dead and displaced several hundred thousand.

Ruto went on trial last month, becoming the highest-ranking serving official to do so before the ICC, and Kenyatta's trial is due to start on November 12.

He was briefly excused to help Kenyatta deal with last month's siege at the upmarket Westgate Mall in which at least 67 people were killed.

If judges turn down the prosecution's request, an appeal will be lodged, Bensouda noted.