The Trial Chamber came to a decision on the Kenyatta Defence’s Article 64 application.
The Kenyatta defence had filed this application seeking to have the case either terminated, ‘permanently stayed’ or referred back to the pre-trial chamber. This came on the back of disclosure to the defence of OTP-4’s controversial affidavit and the decision of the Prosecutor not to proceed with the charges against Muthaura.
The Court’s Analysis
The court determined that failure to disclose OTP-4’s affidavit showed deficiencies in the Prosecutor’s evidence-handling practices, but did not warrant the extreme solution of a stay nor did it require asking the PTC to re-open the confirmation decision as the Trial Court was competent to resolve the matter. The court also was not convinced that delayed disclosure made a fair trial impossible.
The Court also pointed out that although OTP-4’s affidavit should have been disclosed in good time, the defence argument that the entire confirmation was flawed and should be re-opened represented an attempt to make the Trial Chamber an appeal chamber against the PTC’s judgement. The judges were not prepared accept such an unprecedented role. They also felt that the defence had not shown how the affidavit impacted the confirmation proceedings, rather, the defence simply used the affidavit to criticised the PTC’s methods and analysis. Finally, the defence seemed to ‘overstate’ the impact of OTP’s affidavit (and OTP-11’s screening notes that were also disclosed after confirmation): they could not show that a reasonable PTC could have come to a different conclusion bearing in mind the other evidence before it.
The same went for the defence argument that the new material and witnesses disclosed after confirmation proceedings materially altered the Prosecution case such that it would not be possible to proceed to trial. The Judges felt that despite the new material, the Prosecutor had stayed within the ‘facts and circumstances’ stated in the Document Containing Charges (DCC); even if there were changes made to the Pre-Trial Brief, it was the DCC that formed the borderlines of the Prosecutor’s case. In addition, the new material could not justify sending the case back to the PTC as the new material arose when the matter was within the rightful jurisdiction of the Trial Chamber, therefore it was the body responsible for handling the issue.
The court, however, criticised the volume of new material that the Prosecution brought after confirmation, noting that the burden was on the Prosecutor to show that such witnesses and material could not reasonably have been procured before confirmation. In this case, however, the court was satisfied that the ‘challenges’ with regard to investigating in Kenya sufficiently explained the late disclosure of large amounts new evidence.
In relation to Prosecutorial ethics, the Court criticised the Prosecutor’s failure to disclose the affidavit to the defence, but did not find anything to show fraud or intentional non-disclosure as the Defence had argued. The court also felt that to issue a stay on the basis of Prosecutorial misconduct would be excessive; the judges restricted themselves to issuing a reprimand.
Flowing from it’s reasoning, the court decided that the appropriate remedies were to reprimand the Prosecution for its conduct and give the defence more time to prepare their case (the Defence subsequently asked for trial to begin in January 2014).
Judge Wyngaert, in her brief separate opinion, was caustic about Prosecutorial behaviour. She felt that the prosecution made only generic explanations for its difficulties in investigations and did not show how the situation (particularly for witnesses) had changed post-confirmation- if indeed the situation had changed. Several times the judge described the Prosecutor’s office as ‘negligent’ and she was clear that the negligence violated defence rights to a fair trial. But crucially, she accepted the mitigating factors for the Prosecutor who was operating under ‘difficult circumstances’.
Judge Eboe-Osuji aligned himself with the rest of the court on the main issues but had a lot more to say on the issues of fraud, OTP-4, the PTC’s analysis of evidence and of Post-Confirmation investigations. He categorically refuted the defence allegation of bad faith and fraud on the part of the Prosecutor. This is arguably correct: not only is ‘fraud’ an allegation of criminality that carries a high level of proof, but the actions of the Prosecutor in remedying the disclosure failings of her office contradict such a finding. Indeed, though the defence did not see OTP-4’s affidavit till late, it had been disclosed in full to Judge Trendafilova during confirmation proceedings; the Prosecutor admits however that she should have drawn the judge’s attention to the contradiction between the affidavit and OTP-4’s previous statements on the 3 January 2008 meeting. Judge Eboe-Osuji also felt that public policy was against sending the case back to the PTC; this would cause further delay in proceedings and judicial inefficiency. The Judge also cautioned the defence against drawing too much from the PTC’s assessment of OTP-4’s credibility. He pointed out that the PTC has a very limited role in assessing the credibility of witnesses compared with the Trial Chamber. Therefore a court should be reluctant to ask the PTC to reopen confirmation proceedings on the basis of additional evidence casting doubt on the credibility of confirmation witnesses.
Where Judge Eboe-Osuji parted ways with the main decision was on the question of post-confirmation investigations. The judge felt that the reasoning of the majority would unreasonably restrict Prosecutors in future cases from pursuing such investigations, even when they would be in the interests of justice.
Judge Ozaki also agreed with the main decision, but felt that the test for issuing a stay and the test for remitting a matter to the PTC should be applied separately. To her, it seemed that the main decision had decided both issues together without fully analysing each. She further felt that there should never be a reason why a Trial Chamber would refer back to the Pre-Trial Chamber an issue about framing of the charges- an issue that she felt was solely within the competence of the Prosecutor. In other words, the Trial Chamber could not refer back something over which it had no power to begin with. Instead, she felt that in the event there is a problem with the charges, the Prosecutor should be invited to amend them and, failing this, the Trial Chamber could discontinue the trial on the basis that a violation of the right to fair trial had occurred.
Does this judgement feed the anti-ICC position? I think not, but it won’t stop Kenyan politicians and the Executive from making hay from this. For example, the A-G has been vocal recently about the cooperation that Kenya has given the court. So the fact that the judges partly accepted the Prosecutor’s argument that investigating in Kenya has been a challenge suggests that the A-G’s cooperation argument may not be as strong as he portrays it. The court was also clear in separating criticisms of the choice of cases by the Prosecutor from criticism of her conduct of those cases. As Judge Eboe-Osuji explained, allegations of bad faith or egregious conduct by the Prosecutor should not cause the Trial Chamber to lose sight of the important role it is playing in bringing accountability for Post-Election Violence. The same advice should go to the opponents of the ICC.
Sadly, the AU has joined the bandwagon of criticising the ICC wholecloth without differentiating between poor Prosecutorial practice and the fitness of the ICC for its purpose of breaking down walls of impunity. Of course the conclusion that the Prosecutor may have been negligent in handling the Kenya cases won’t help matters- even if she reforms the internal functioning and evidence review in her office what guarantees are there that it had not happened in the past and will not happen again?
But what the court did not say was the very thing that Uhuruto’s political and diplomatic defenders have been arguing- that the Kenyatta case was too weak to ever go to trial. It is this telling omission that is probably motivating the accused and their associates to rejuvenate exhausted shuttle diplomacy for another lap around the globe.
To use a sailing metaphor: the fact that her sails had big holes in them does not mean that the Prosecutor’s ship was sailing in the wrong direction- only that the Prosecutor should probably have prepared better before leaving port. Only a full trial can determine whether her destination (conviction of the accused) is within reach according the evidence.