Judges at the International Criminal Court have picked a Kenyan lawyer to represent victims of Post-Election Violence in one of the two Kenyan cases at The Hague.
The Trial Chamber picked former Lead Counsel for United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for
Rwanda, Wilfred Nderitu as the new common representatives for victims.
The new Kenyan lawyer replaces Sureta Chana in the case facing Eldoret North MP William Ruto and radio journalist Joshua arap Sang. In their decision, the judges said Nderitu has relevant experience for the position.
“The Chamber notes that Mr Nderitu has direct relevant experience for the position, including familiarity with international criminal law practice, knowledge of Kenya, familiarity with the case and experience in interacting with victims, including in the context of the post-election violence in Kenya,” reported the bench.
The judges noted that the court had sent a request for expression of interest in the position that was sent to all lawyers on the Registry list of counsel and also to the Law Society of Kenya.
Alumnus of UoN Nderitu is a former Chair of the Governing Council of the Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ).
The alumnus of University of Nairobi Law School has also served as Duty Counsel with the International Criminal Court tasked with ensuring the observance of the rights of a potential witness during investigations. As a Duty Counsel at the ICC, Nderitu served in the case of the prosecutor against Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony.
Chana who represented the victims during the pre-trial stage had emerged the best in the interviews that were conducted by the registry of the ICC.
She was unwilling to relocate to Kenya, a mandatory requirement that had been set by the trial judges, which led to the termination of her appointment. However, one of the three Judges, Eboe-Osuji, a Nigerian dissented in the ruling, but the majority view prevailed.
“The Chamber reiterates that it considers this requirement (to be based in Kenya) to be very important to the overall functionality of the role envisaged for the common legal representative in the new system established by the Chamber in its Decision,” ICC noted.
The court insisted that representation in the best interest of the victims would in many cases require that the common legal representative be in the field attending to the interests of victims, while court proceedings are in progress.
In an earlier application to the judges, Chana had rejected the idea of having a common legal representative practising in Kenya arguing that external pressure would undermine their duties.
She told the judges that external pressures would be more easily brought to bear on a lawyer who is a practitioner in Kenya and whose practice in the country would potentially be threatened by those with nfluence.
However, the judges in their decision noted that Nderitu fulfils all the criteria set out in the decision and is willing to maintain an on-going presence in Kenya as was required. They said that a victim should benefit from the highest quality representation possible, generally or in the courtroom.
They said that when the common legal representative is out of court meeting the victims, he would be represented by members of the Office of Public Counsel for victims.
However, they insisted that the common legal representative should be able to appear in person upon request and at critical junctures involving victims’ interests.
The court is now finalising everything in readiness for trial proceedings that kicks off in April next year. The case against Ruto and Sang begins on April 10, while the trial of Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and former head of Public Service Francis Muthaura begins on April 11