, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 12 – The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights on Friday confirmed that it had been housing two witnesses who allege they were paid off and coached to give evidence incriminating Eldoret North MP William Ruto.
Commissioner Hassan Omar Hassan said they are mandated by law to give protection to witnesses, but vigorously denied allegations leveled against him that he had coached or bribed them.
“The commission operates within the law. We don’t engage in bribing or coaching witnesses,” he told a news conference at the commission’s headquarters in Nairobi.
“These two witnesses came here on their own volition. They gave evidence on their own and we took their evidence. The allegations they are making are outrageous,” Mr Hassan said following claims by William Kipkemboi Rono and Ken Braziz Wekesa that he bribed and coached them to implicate Mr Ruto in planning the post-election violence.
The witnesses came out publicly on Thursday and showed journalists lavish apartments in Kilimani area of Nairobi where they said they were being housed by the commission as they waited to testify before the International Criminal Court [ICC].
On Friday, Mr Hassan defiantly asked: "Where did you want us to keep them? On the streets on in Mukuru [slum].”
He said the two witnesses had been notified that the commission would no longer cater for their upkeep in safe houses beginning January 2011, after the ICC wrote saying it was no longer interested in their submissions.
"These two witnesses had been duly notified of that development,” the commissioner said and declined to go into details on KNCHR’s payments to them.
“We will not go into details on our monetary operations. But our accounts are audited by the government," declared Mr Hassan who added: "Upon rejection by ICC we informed them that we would house them until January 2011.”
On Thursday, Mr Ruto went to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) where he recorded a statement demanding a thorough investigation by the police on the claims by the two witnesses.
“It is really unfortunate that a commission that is supposed to look after the human rights of every Kenyan has chosen to be the body that is going to subvert the cause of justice. That a commission can hire people, rent houses for them, pay them allowances and cause them to write statements that are untrue merely to fix me or even any other person,” he said at the time.
But Mr Hassan retorted: "Police should probe (Mr) Ruto for instigating them. We are entitled to protect witnesses."
The commission also pressed for the arrest of the two witnesses, whom it said should be charged with perjury (lying under oath).
“We are calling upon the police to arrest them and charge them because they have publicly admitted and written affidavits to acknowledge that they had lied under oath,” he said.
“We also want the police to investigate Ruto for instigating them to lie,” he added.
Police on Friday said they were still studying the statement made by Mr Ruto before taking action.