ICC witnesses have rejected a proposal to move the Kenyan ICC trials to Tanzania. The witnesses said they would not be willing to testify in Arusha for fears about their safety.
"We have learnt of the plan with surprise and we will not support it because it obviously puts our security at risk," said a witness who rang the Star yesterday from a European capital.
The trials of Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, former Eldoret North MP William Ruto, former Civil Service chief Francis Muthaura and broadcaster Joshua Arap Sang are due to start on April 10 and 11. They are charged with crimes against humanity arising out of the post-election violence in 2007/8.
Last year the witnesses rejected a plan to relocate them to African countries after the trials are over and said they need to stay in Europe to ensure their safety.
There will be 80 witnesses at the two trials. The identities off those under ICC protection will only be disclosed to the defence on February 11 and those not under protection will be disclosed on March 13.
Last week the ICC asked Tanzania, Kenya and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to make submissions on whether the Kenyan cases can be heard in Arusha.
The trial chamber led by Judge Kuniko Ozaki also wants the ICTR to advise whether the facilities in Arusha for the Rwanda genocide trials would be suitable for the ICC.
ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, legal representatives for the victims, and the ICC registry have also been asked for their opinions.
The ICTR is now winding up its work. It has four trial chambers in Arusha with support infrastructure of detention cells and offices. Since it started, the tribunal indicted 92 persons of whom three are still at large.
It has finished 50 trials. There are 32 individuals currently serving prison sentences, 13 who have finished their sentences, and three who died in prison.
Last year Uhuru and Muthaura asked the court to consider moving their case to Arusha but the judges told them to apply to the ICC President.
Ruto and Sang also applied to ICC presidency on the possibility of having the venue of the cases changed. Attorney General Githu Muigai also wrote to the ICC requesting to have the cases heard locally.
Yesterday the witnesses said they had not been consulted but had decided that it would be very unsafe for them to agree to the plan.
"We are told the prosecutor will seek our opinion on the matter but we already know that such a plan is not workable at all because it will expose us to many dangers", said the witnesses.
"Even before they ask us about our opinion we will communicate to them so that we know the actual position early enough", said the witnesses.
Defense teams have argues that the trials at The Hague would take the suspects away from their homes, friends and family, and their work and other vocations.
"We too have concerns particularly on our security because we believe this for us is a big sacrifice", said another witness. Bensouda has already complained about threats against the witnesses and she will file her opinion on the matter.
Uhuru and Ruto are running for President and Deputy President in the March 4 election and may still apply to have the cases deferred, espcially in case they win the polls.