Kenyatta is the first sitting President to appear before the ICC
He says he is attending the hearing as a private citizen
He has been accused of five counts of crimes against humanity for his alleged role in a disputed 2007 election
The Kenyan leader has pleaded not guilty
The International Criminal Court has dropped charges against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta – the first sitting head of state to appear before the tribunal.
Kenyatta, 53, faced five counts of crimes against humanity for allegedly orchestrating violence after a disputed presidential election seven years ago.
Shortly before he left for the Netherlands, he appointed his deputy president to serve as acting President, saying he is attending the hearing at The Hague as a private citizen.
More than 1,000 people died when ethnic groups loyal to leading candidates torched homes and hacked rivals in violence that raged for months.
Kenyatta, who backed then-incumbent Mwai Kibaki in that election, was accused of funding a local militia that conducted reprisal attacks. He has maintained that he is not guilty.
The second day of the status hearing will determine whether his case can proceed to trial. The first day was held Tuesday, but he was not required to attend. The court mandated that he be present on the last day.
Withdrawal follows a series of setbacks
Kenya is the second African nation after Sudan to have a sitting president face charges at the International Criminal Court.
But Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir does not cooperate with the court, and has rejected ICC warrants for his arrest for alleged war crimes in Darfur.
Lack of evidence
“My conscience is clear, has been clear, and will remain forever clear that I am innocent of all the accusations leveled against me,” Kenyatta said before he boarded the plane in Nairobi.
The ICC prosecutor has postponed the start of the trial numerous times, citing lack of evidence. The prosecution has suffered a series of setbacks, with witnesses withdrawing and others admitting to lying.
“In ordinary circumstances, the insufficiency of evidence would cause the prosecution to withdraw the charges,” the ICC said in September.
“However, it would be inappropriate for the prosecution to withdraw the charges at this stage in light of the government of Kenya continuing failure to cooperate fully with the court’s requests for assistance in this case.”
This is the first time Kenyatta is attending a hearing in person since he assumed office in April last year.
The ICC has also accused Deputy President William Ruto of orchestrating attacks. A third suspect, radio personality Joshua arap Sang, is being tried alongside Ruto on similar charges; the trial of these two began in September.
The ICC has also accused Deputy President William Ruto of orchestrating attacks. His trial started in September 2013.
Kenyatta and Ruto have denied accusations that they coordinated violence among their respective ethnic groups after the disputed election.
The court – set up in 2002 to try claims of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes – has ordered Kenyatta to attend opening and closing statements, but has excused him from being at the trial otherwise.
The International Criminal Court was set up in 2002 to prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The Parliament of Kenya voted in September to withdraw from ICC jurisdiction after repeatedly calling on the court to drop the cases. But a withdrawal would take a while to implement because it involves steps such as a formal notification to the United Nations. The ICC has said the trials will proceed.
Kenya’s previous administration reneged on a deal to set up a special tribunal to try suspects in the post-election violence, prompting the international court to step in.