Uhuru, Ruto battle with ICC over witnesses who took off
Kenya: One of the witnesses that ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda wants compelled to testify against Deputy President William Ruto disappeared from his hotel room as ICC officials were helping him to apply for a visa to go to The Hague.
Bensouda revealed that in September last year, officials from the Prosecutor’s office met the alleged high-value witness in a hotel to help him secure a Dutch visa. “However, the following day, the prosecution arrived at P-0495’s hotel to discover he had checked out overnight with no forwarding information. Despite repeated attempts, it has not been possible for the Prosecution to establish contact with the witness since that time,” reveals the prosecutor.
The revelation is contained in Bensouda’s application to the judges to compel the witness and six others to appear before them to testify against Ruto and journalist Joshua Sang. It is likely that the said hotel is in Nairobi, from where the duly-filled visa application forms would have been easily sent to the Dutch embassy in the city. The identity of the witness had been disclosed to Ruto and Sang’s lawyers six months earlier on March 13, last year. The wife of witness P-0036, considered a major witness by the Prosecution sent a message to Bensouda’s team saying “bye be…fore ever” signaling that her husband had broken all cooperation with the prosecution.
This was on August 30, last year. Bensouda alleges in her submission that two days before the text message, the witness had been offered a Sh2 million bribe to withdraw as a witness and had returned to Eldoret to consider the offer. According to Bensouda, the witness telephoned another witness a few days later and confirmed that he had accepted the Sh2 million.
The defence has already denied these claim and accused Bensouda of conducting a shoddy investigation. A few days before, on August 28, the witnesses had contacted the prosecution through another witness, saying he wished to discuss the pressure being exerted on his family because he was a witness against the Deputy President and Sang. “It was agreed that the prosecution would call him the next day to discuss arrangement. However, the prosecution was unable to reestablish communication,” said Bensouda. Overly politicised
The witnesses had broken off all direct communication with Bensouda’s officials in early August had taken all his possessions to return to Kenya. He reportedly said he was “returning home to his village”. On October 29 last year, it was reported in the media that the witness had withdrawn from the case claiming that ICC trials had become overly politicised and that reconciliation in Kenya had already been achieved after the post-election violence of 2007/2008.
He alleged that the prosecution had refused to accept his withdrawal and threatened him with criminal prosecution should he refuse to sign pre-prepared statements. But Bensouda says that she is yet to receive his formal withdrawal. Regarding witness P-0015, his lawyer sent an affidavit to the ICC on February 19 last year recanting all his evidence presented to the Prosecution. But three days later, upon meeting officials from Bensouda’s office, he claimed that he was kidnapped and forced to sign the affidavit at gunpoint. He said he was willing to testify. Interestingly, a second affidavit from his lawyer was sent to Bensouda’s office a month later together with two other affidavits signed by his wife and father, where the three reaffirmed the recantation of evidence. When telephoned by prosecutors, he also claimed that he was forced to sign the second affidavit. He said that he wanted a face-to-face meeting with Bensouda’s officers but soon after disappeared.