17 November 2012

Kenya: ICC Witnesses Deported From Europe

Photo: Capital FM
Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta has vowed he will not be distracted in his quest for the presidency by charges he’'s facing at the International Criminal Court (file photo).

Two witnesses of the International Criminal Court (ICC) who had been placed under protective custody in Europe have been deported back to Kenya by their host country.

It is not clear which of the four ICC accused the witnesses were to testify against over their role in the 2007-08 post-election violence, but both the deportees are residents of the Rift Valley.

The four suspects facing crimes against humanity are Eldoret North MP William Ruto, journalist Joshua arap Sang, Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and former head of Civil Service Francis Muthaura.

The two witnesses were deported back to Nairobi last week under unclear circumstances. One was returned along with his wife and three children.

One of the deportees refused to discus why he was expelled by his hosts. "I am in the country at the moment as I plan what to do next," he said on the phone.

Sources indicated that the two had "misbehaved" in the countries where they were being hosted for protection. One of them reportedly fought a protection officer and "often engaged in behaviour which contravened regulations in the host country."

The ICC investigators had interrogated the two but it is not known if they were listed to appear in the cases facing the four Kenyans at The Hague. The trials are scheduled to start in mid April.

The witness deported with his family refused to be named saying it was risky for his family and that he was looking for a way to settle in the country away from his home in the Rift Valley.

He was taken out of the country two years ago. He has been demanding that the ICC give him written commitment on how long the court would continue to protect after he testified in the trial.

Human rights activist Ken Wafula has opposed to a proposal to relocate ICC witnesses from their hideouts in Europe to African countries.

"The African Union has declared that it does not support the ICC and its will be risky to have any of the people linked to the Kenya ICC cases relocated back to Africa," said Wafula recently.

Yesterday Wafula said the ICC should treat its witnesses with utmost compassion and care so that they are not exposed to danger or suffering.

"If they are treated in a way that exposes them to danger, that will undermine the ongoing cases," said Wafula who is the executive director of the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy.

The ICC has at the same time stepped up further investigations into the cases against the four Kenyans ahead of the trials.

ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, who visited Kenya a couple of weeks ago, said her team was ready to proceed with the trials.

"We are not here for investigations but just to hear your views on the ongoing process," she told audiences at Kiambaa in Eldoret, Burnt Forest and in Eldoret town. Some of the speakers at the meetings questioned the ICC investigations but Bensouda said the process had already passed that stage.

However,the Star has learnt that several other people who are potential witnesses have been interrogated at a location in one of the African countries.

At least five people travelled to the African nation where they were separately questioned for more than a week.

Bensouda has applied to the court to allow her office to delay revealing the names of some of the witnesses until 30 days to the trials.

According to Bensouda, there had been a "clean-up" that resulted in the killing of several members of the Mungiki group who had information that would have helped her prosecute the case against Uhuru and Muthaura.

She says four witnesses currently under protection were privy to the planning and execution of attacks in the election violence. She argues their lives and those of their families would be endangered if their identities were revealed prematurely.

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