Bensouda’s new strategy to nail Ruto
The Prosecution at the International Criminal Court has plotted a new strategy to nail Deputy President William Ruto, even as The Hague judges yesterday deferred his ongoing trial for two days.
Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s team revealed it will seek to admit the initial statements of recalcitrant witnesses directly as evidence — if they fail to appear before the Chamber or testify by video link from Nairobi.
This means that even if witnesses refuse to cooperate and deliver fresh testimony, the statements they made earlier will be used.
Lead trial lawyer for the Prosecution Anton Steynberg said they would demonstrate to the judges that the numerous witnesses who have pulled out of the case were bribed or coerced to withdraw.
“Should the remaining witnesses, who are the subjects of summons or who are anticipated to be the subject of further compulsory measures, fail ultimately to come to the Court and to testify despite all reasonable steps having been taken,” Steynberg submitted.
“Or should they come and recant their earlier version and should the Chamber be satisfied that the action prescribed above are as a result of interference, the prosecution will submit that under Rule 68, the prior statement of these witnesses should be admitted into the record,” he said.
Ruto and former radio journalist Joshua Sang are charged with orchestrating the bloodshed that brought Kenya to its knees after the bungled 2007 polls. More than 1,500 people died and more than 500,000 were displaced.
Yesterday, Ruto’s Lawyer Karim Khan termed the new demands by the Prosecution “nonsense”.
“Mr President, the Prosecution is losing sight of of justice and losing sight of what this case is about and embarking on a wild goose chase,” stated the British attorney.
In his submission to the Judges, however, Steynberg revealed that they have recordings and photographs of one witness who allegedly was sent to persuade another witness to pull out of the case.
According to the lawyer, the withdrawal of witnesses due to influence is a an attack on the integrity of the Court, which he insisted would deprive the judges of much relevant and necessary evidence.
“One could observe that it’s hardly unlikely that someone would spend their time and energy to locate, track down, approach and bribe witnesses, as well as the financial commitment involved, if in fact, all those witnesses were liars and would be exposed through legal process,” Steynberg emphasised.
“Witnesses are being bribed because they are a threat, because they have real cogent and incriminating evidence,” he said.
As a result, the Prosecution now wants to confront the witnesses on whether they were influenced to pull out of the case. It also revealed that they would seek permission from the Chamber to compel two additional witnesses to testify.
The two would be in addition to the nine witnesses the ICC Judges asked the Kenyan Government to compel to appear in April this year.
Yesterday, the three-judge panel pushed the trial to Thursday to enable the completion of the witnesses’ familiarisation process and enable counsel to prepare.
“The Chamber considered the familiarisation process to be an important aspect in preparing the witness to give the testimony, in particular, in order to minimise any stress experienced or to be experienced,” Presiding Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji ruled.