Identity of first ICC witness to remain secret

September 17, 2013 8:37 am
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The trial against William Ruto and Joshua arap Sang kicked off at the ICC on Tuesday. Photo/ ICC
The trial against William Ruto and Joshua arap Sang kicked off at the ICC on Tuesday. Photo/ ICC

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 17 – The face and voice of the first witness against Deputy President William Ruto and Joshua arap Sang in the landmark International Criminal Court trial will be distorted, as the court moves to protect her identity from the world because of her testimony about the Kiambaa Church attack where 35 people were burnt alive, at the height of Kenya’s post-election violence of 2008.

She will only be known as P0536 to keep her identity secret, after the Prosecution’s request to have her protected.

While giving the green light to keep her identity concealed, Presiding Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji noted that she had been assessed and found to warrant protection from the court.

The court had to go in-camera for the start of the trial.

“With that cleared up, court officer we may proceed into the closed session for purposes of inviting the witness into the courtroom,” said the Presiding Judge on Tuesday.

And when she finally took her place on the stand, the woman’s face was blurred and her voice had been altered.

The Office of the Prosecutor has also prepared a Protected Information Sheet (PIS) which lists all the relatives that the first witness may refer to in her testimony.

Senior Trial Attorney Anton Steynberg said that he would require about three in-camera sessions with the first witness and would be using the PIS to reduce the number of the sessions.

“I do anticipate that we will need not more than three private sessions during the course of her testimony. The first private session will be when I deal with some background and personal information about her. The other two sessions will also be for her to disclose her identity to those listed,” explained Steynberg.

The witness will also use the PIS to refer to her relatives through the codes attached to each of them in the course of her account.

The woman was interviewed by the Chamber on Saturday and it is on the basis of this interview that the decision to hide her identity was reached.

“As she gives her testimony she will refer that she had a certain child with her on that particular day or other relative with her. What I propose is that she will refer to the person as person number one or person number four; child number five, child number six or child number eight,” explained Steynberg.

The woman was interviewed by the Chamber on Saturday and it is on the basis of this interview that the decision to hide her identity was reached.

The witness statement has however not been given to the defence in the case.

Ruto’s and Sang’s lead lawyers Karim Khan and Katwa Kigen, respectively, both said that as long as the statement was made available to them, they would have no problem.

“Your Honor, sometimes there are these technical glitches and when they are there perhaps the old fashioned way is best. If this statement can simply be printed out and handed over to us by the end of the first break, it would be appreciated,” said Khan.

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