NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 18 – The International Criminal Court (ICC) has warned the public against revealing the identity of protected prosecution witnesses.
Speaking after resuming the trial session against Deputy President William Ruto and journalist Joshua arap Sang on Wednesday afternoon, presiding Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji said the court would particularly not hesitate to prosecute bloggers or journalists who reveal identities of witnesses.
“Members of the press, bloggers, social media members or participants and their web hosts are particularly called upon to desist from anything that would reveal or attempt to reveal the identity of protected witnesses or to engage in secondary dissemination of such wrongful and illegal information. Such conduct will be investigated and the culprits will be prosecuted,” he warned.
Eboe-Osuji informed the public that revealing or even making attempts to reveal the identity of protected witnesses is an offence and no person will be spared for interfering with those testifying before the ICC.
“Any revelation of the identity of a protected witnesses amounts to an offence… so too will any attempt to engage in such revelation. The chamber therefore reminds everyone inside the courtroom, in the public gallery, in Kenya and anywhere in the world to do nothing that will reveal or attempt to reveal the identity of a protected witness,” he said.
According to Eboe-Osuji any attempts to interfere with a judicial process will not be tolerated as they amount to contempt of court not just under the ICC jurisdiction but also in local justice systems.
The court adjourned on Tuesday morning barely five minutes into the session due to prosecution concerns over alleged witness identification.
Several online platforms on Tuesday revealed the name of the first prosecution witness identified as P0356, whom it is alleged testified in a criminal case in Kenya, but which was eventually dismissed for lack of evidence.
Despite the court putting stringent measures in place to protect the identity of the first witness, media personalities, bloggers and members of the public used the online space to spread the name supposed to be the identity of the witness who was on the stand recounting to the court about the aftermath of the fire that killed about 35 people at the Assemblies of God Church in Kiambaa.
On Tuesday, the witness’ image and voice were distorted to ensure no one could identify her.
Only the judges, the defence teams, Victims Legal Representative Wilfred Nderitu and the accused persons – Ruto and Sang were supposed to see the witness.
However, information over her identity leaked out while she was giving her testimony in the court.
The witness was expected to continue with her testimony on Tuesday after parties completed giving their submissions on Kenya’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute.
However, Tuesday’s programme was delayed due to prolonged private sessions to discuss the alleged exposure of her identity.