ICC’s Bensouda allays fears over witness protection
The International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecution office has expressed confidence in its witness protection mechanism saying it remained committed to protecting its witnesses.
The office released a statement on Friday affirming its commitment to protect the witnesses but also dismissed concerns raised in the Kenyan media about the willingness of some people set to testify to continue giving their accounts during trial of President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto and Joshua Sang.
“The Office of the Prosecutor deplores the recent stream of sensationalist reports in the Kenyan media, on the level of witness cooperation. Witness protection remains one of our highest priorities” said the statement.
A number of witnesses have withdrawn their statements recently putting the prosecution on the limelight especially after Witness Number 4 in the case against Mr Kenyatta and Mr Francis Mathaura withdrew forcing prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to abandon the latter’s case.
Even with the withdrawals— the latest three who were lined up to testify against Mr Kenyatta but bolted out citing safety fears— Ms Bensouda’s office said they were not challenged, only saying the courage and integrity of its witnesses was important to the progress of the cases.
“The Office will therefore not be drawn into any public speculation on the status of witnesses. The courage and integrity of witnesses are essential to the Court’s determination of the truth, which is at the heart of justice. It is in the interest of all concerned to allow justice to take its course,” added the statement.
So far one witness has rebuffed his account against Mr Ruto, the deputy president-elect, saying he was induced to testify against Mr Ruto at the ICC.
Witness Number 4 termed as key in Mr Muthaura’s case, also claimed to have been coached to give evidence at the court when he withdrew.
Mr Muthaura’s case, the head of civil service when the last post-election violence rocked the country in 2007/08, was dropped by the court.
Mr Kenyatta who will be sworn in as Kenya’s fourth president on Tuesday is expected at The Hague in July when his trial opens.
Mr Ruto and Mr Sang will begin their trial next month.