Tuesday, July 23, 2024

ICC moves witnesses to Europe ahead of Hague trial

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has relocated five top witnesses from an African country ahead of the start of hearings for the post election violence cases against President Uhuru Kenyatta, his Deputy William Ruto and journalist Joshua Arap Sang.

The five were flown from a neighbouring country to another location in the region from where they will board flights to different destinations in Europe in readiness to testify in the cases. Ruto and Sang’s cases come up for hearing starting September 10 at The Hague.

Witnesses who have been in the neighbouring country are linked to the Kiambaa KAG Church fire where more than 30 people were killed at the height of the poll violence on January 1st 2008.

The Star has established that the relocated witnesses have crucial evidence on the church incident and they have been residing at safe houses in the neighbouring country’s capital city.

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Before they were flown out by officials from the ICC Witness Protection Unit there were fears about their security which led to the relocation on a night flight two days ago. ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is expected to use the witnesses to testify during the hearings.

“They are no longer here. They were taken to other locations for safety purposes two days ago,” said a source related to one of the witnesses and who was living with them for the last two months.

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Our source said security agents of the neighboring nation had learnt of the existence of the witnesses in that nation leading to the security fears by ICC’s protection Unit.

One of the five witnesses was a worker at the home of a top politician who has a farm near the Kiambaa Church and the witness is said to have witnessed the incidents at the church. Also moved are their family members especially children.

Yesterday the National Association of Human Rights Activists (NARA) released a report indicating that human rights defenders including those linked to the ICC cases were under serious threats and intimidation in the country.

Speaking to Journalists in Nyeri town NARA Chairman Ken Wafula said some of the defenders who have been working with post election violence victims and witnesses had been forced to flee from the country for safety.

“They are living under constant threats of death, intimidation and arbitrary arrests by agents of the state and other linked to the ICC cases,”said Wafula.

Wafula said the activists have been victims of hate mails and hate speech from politicians and they have had their families unnecessarily harassed within the last few years.

The report known as “A cry for justice:The State of Human Rights Defenders in Kenya” has been handed to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Keriako Tobiko with recommendations on how to deal with the situation.

It lists names of the human rights defenders who have been dealing with the ICC cases among others who face the threats. “The Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) should recall all the files bearing criminal proceedings on human rights defenders for review to determine whether sufficient evidence exist to sustain the cases,” said Wafula.

He said the police, prosecution and courts have knowingly or unknowingly been used as instruments to oppress, repress, suppress and subjugate human rights defenders even when most cases against them do not meet the basic prosecutorial standards.

Wafula says the Witness Protection Unit in the country should be strengthened and made more independent so that it can handle crucial witnesses including those linked to high profile cases like those at the ICC.


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