A Deus Ex Machina Postpones the Kenya Cases

Just a quick update to close the loop on a prior post.  There, we noted speculative press reporting that Western diplomats were considering options for delaying the Kenyatta and Ruto cases before the International Criminal Court, particularly in light of the Westgate Mall attack of September 21st. It was always unclear whether a diplomatic consensus would be reached, no less pursued.  To date, nothing has materialized at the Security Council, but Trial Chamber V(B) yesterday ruled that the trial of Kenyatta, which was slated to begin November 12, 2013, would be postponed until February 5, 2014. 

The postponement was supported by the Defense and the Prosecution. The Defense argued that the Prosecutor needed more time to research issues raised by the Defence Application for a Permanent Stay of Proceedings due to Abuse of Process.  The latter motion alleges that several Prosecution witnesses and intermediaries had intimidated defense witnesses in an effort to have them change their testimony–a bizarre role reversal given that most allegations of witness bribes, intimidation and general tampering have been directed at the defense in this case.  The Prosecutor did not object to the postponement, also indicating that a delay to the new year would enable it to present its case in a more logical fashion, given that some alleged insider witnesses were not scheduled to appear until the new year in order to give the Defense time to prepare.  In an untimely response, the victims objected.  Although it granted the Defense’s request, the Trial Chamber took note of the impact of this decision on the victims, who have been waiting for justice since early 2008:

[N]oting the interest of justice, the fairness and expeditiousness of the proceedings and, in particular, the victims and witnesses, the Chamber deeply regrets that repeated adjournments of the trial have been necessary because one or both parties have required more time to prepare. The Chamber urges both parties to accelerate their preparation in order to ensure that no further postponements are required.

 

About the Author(s)

Beth Van Schaack

Leah Kaplan Visiting Professor of Human Rights, Stanford Law School; Former Deputy to the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues in the U.S. State Department. All views are her own. Follow her on Twitter (@BethVanSchaack).