Kenyan case looking into Kenyatta, Ruto presidential bids postponed

Kenya’s High Court has postponed the case to determine whether two prominent Kenyans facing trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) and aspiring to be president meet the constitution’s integrity standards for public office.

High Court Judge Issac Lenaola postponed the case to September 27 in order to allow lawyers representing the petitioners to amend their petition. He also postponed the case because the other two judges who were supposed to be sitting on the panel were not available to do so Tuesday.

Judge Lenaola ordered Ambrose Otieno Weda, who is representing some of the petitioners, to submit the amended petition within the next 14 days to the respondents and interested parties in the case. They in turn will have 14 days to respond to it, Lenaola ordered. He also said that if the petitioners wished to comment on the responses, they had seven days after that to do so.

Weda told the court the amended petition will include the names of other “substantive Kenyans” in order for the court to deal with the issue of integrity in leadership at one go. Weda declined to state whom he intended to name as additional respondents in the case before he had filed the amended petition.

The petitioners are individual voters, some civil society organizations, such as the Kenya Youth Parliament and the Kenya Youth League, as well as some of the people who were displaced from their homes during the bloody upheaval that shook Kenya following the country’s last election in December 2007.

The petitioners are asking the court to determine whether Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta and former Cabinet Minister William Samoei Ruto pass the integrity standard set in the constitution. The petitioners would like the court to rule on this because Kenyatta and Ruto have declared their intention to run for president while they are set to face trial at the ICC on charges of crimes against humanity.

Kenyatta faces five counts of crimes against humanity allegedly committed after the December 2007 presidential poll. His trial is due to begin on April 11, 2013. Ruto faces three counts of crimes against humanity and his trial begins on April 10, 2013. The next Kenyan elections are due to be held on March 4, 2013, one month before the ICC trials begin.

Some of the interested parties in the case are the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution, which is an independent institution responsible for overseeing the process to implement Kenya’s nearly two-year old supreme law. Others include the Law Society of Kenya and Kenyatta’s newly formed political vehicle, The National Alliance party.

The constitution lays out in broad terms the integrity standards any one holding, seeking to hold or being appointed to public office must satisfy. These are in chapter six of the constitution. The National Assembly is also required to pass a law that expands the broad principles on integrity in the constitution and that also describes the penalties to be applied in case of violation. The National Assembly is yet to do this because a draft bill is at the public comments stage.

This lack of legislation is one of the grounds for preliminary objections to the case some lawyers indicated on Tuesday that they would be making. They will be arguing the court has no jurisdiction because no subsidiary law has been enacted. They will argue the court is in effect being asked to do the work of the legislature.