Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Video:ICC holds closed session over witness safety

The second day of the first witness testimony was interrupted Wednesday after the court went into a closed session.

As soon as the morning session began, the prosecution requested that the court holds the hearing in private because of the sensitive issue it wanted to bring up, believed to be the safety and security of the witness P0536 who began her testimony on Tuesday.

There was concern that the identity of the witness had been disclosed putting her in great danger along with her family.

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“There are some serious issues that the prosecution wants to raise,” presiding judge Chile Eboe-Osuji said as soon as the parties had taken their seats.

The judge emphasised said the prosecution’s request for a closed session was more important and could precede the submissions the Chamber had directed regarding the motion by Kenya to pull out of the Rome Statute.

Later, the Chamber ordered an ex parte hearing, meaning only one party would be making submissions to the bench from 11am Hague time.

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Issues of witness safety and security have been a concern for the prosecution, with the ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda warning those who tamper with witnesses of dire consequences.

“Let me also caution, Mr President, those persons behind the on-going attempts to intimidate and bribe the ICC witnesses. These are serious offences under the Rome Statute and they carry hefty sentences upon conviction.

“The Prosecution is investigating. We will get to the bottom of it and ensure that those responsible also face justice. This trial, Mr President, must be allowed to run its course without interference with the activities of witnesses of either the Prosecution or the Defence,” Ms Bensouda said in her opening statement at the start of the trial of Deputy President William Ruto and Joshua Sang on September 10.

By the time the Chamber went into a closed session, the witness, under the number P0536 had not been ushered into the courtroom.

When she started giving her testimony Tuesday, adequate protective measures were taken to conceal her identity, including the distortion of her voice and face.

“The witness has been assessed and found to deserve protective measures,” judge Eboe-Osuji said.

Furthermore, a representative from the Victims and Witness Unit (VWU) sat next to her through her evidence to provide moral support.

She was led through her evidence by the lead prosecution counsel Anton Steynberg.

On Wednesday, the prosecution was expected to conclude before the common legal representative for victims Wilfred Nderitu takes over followed by the defence counsels for Mr Ruto and Mr Sang.

The court will resumes its sitting at 3pm Kenyan



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