US to protect Kenyan witnesses

February 11, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya Feb 11 – The United States government on Thursday said it would offer maximum support in protecting witnesses who will give evidence over the post election violence cases once the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation process formally kicks off.

The US Ambassador for war crimes Stephen Rapp said the Obama administration was prepared to evacuate key witnesses who will give evidence and their families to safe destinations following numerous threats reported by some of them.

“There may be questions about relocating someone who has a criminal history but there can be potential prospects of relocating a family and getting them out of their homes,” he said.

“Those kind of things are potentially possible with our government and with all the governments and diplomatic assistance and financial assistance to countries in the region that may be able to provide the protection,” he told a media briefing at the US Ambassador’s residence.

He further revealed that that the US government was planning to provide much more assistance to ensure “accountability and justice as far as cases of the post election violence is concerned to avoid a repeat of the same come 2012 when another General Election is scheduled.”

Regarding the much-awaited decision by ICC judges of the pre-trial chamber, Mr Rapp said he was optimistic of a positive response which is expected to be made in “two or three weeks time.”

Mr Rapp told journalists he has been in contact with the ICC Prosecutor Louis Moreno-Ocampo who has assured him that he was hopeful of a positive outcome by the pre-trial judges who are supposed to authorise a formal take over of the Kenyan case.

“I spoke to the Prosecutor when he visited the United States last week. He was there from Wednesday to Friday. He expects a favourable decision that will enable him to move on with his investigation and he believes it can lead to cases involving, as he said, two or three people on each side (of the political divide) in other words four or may be up to six who he may be charged based upon the preliminary information that he has,” Mr Rapp said.

In developing that investigation and those cases, he said Mr Ocampo needed the assistance of Kenyan authorities.

“And I have been here again to emphasis the absolute critical nature of providing that assistance and one of the major areas is in witness protection,” he said.

He said he has also been assured of the Kenyan government’s commitment in setting up a witness protection agency under the Attorney General’s Office.

“And it will be in order that when Parliament reconvenes on February 23, it is important that legislation passes; that the institution be properly staffed with professionals, let it be the officers who will assist the witnesses.  They should be individuals who have been vetted and proven to be of the highest integrity and that resources be provided to that agency,” he said.


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