NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 4 – The office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) has expressed concern at the rate at which witnesses are dropping out of the Kenya cases.
ICC Head of Jurisdiction, Complementarity and Cooperation Division, Office of the Prosecutor Phakiso Mochochoko said on Wednesday that the court had never had such a high number of witnesses dropping out.
He said that it was important to find out the reasons behind the witness withdrawal from the cases claiming that there had been an extraordinary rate of witness intimidation.
“In Kenya we have seen unprecedented levels of threats to witnesses. We have also seen unprecedented reports of witnesses allegedly withdrawing but the question that you must be asking yourselves is why,” said Mochochoko at a forum in Nairobi on the ICC.
“Why is it so peculiar in Kenya? Why is this happening in Kenya? That is what you should be asking yourselves.”
The most recent withdrawals from the cases were on August 16 and September 1 when two other witnesses, separately, dropped out of the case against Deputy President William Ruto and former radio personality Joshua arap Sang saying that they had suffered mental anguish and pressure from their families to quit.
Mochochoko however declined to give the exact number of witnesses who had dropped out so far saying he would not be drawn into that discussion.
He instead said that the judges already had that information and that the schedule of the cases remained unaffected because the Office of the Prosecutor still had a water tight case.
“What importance is that information to you? It is not going to help you determine whether or not we are going to win that case. You don’t know who these witnesses are and you don’t know their credibility,” he said.
Former Garsen Member of Parliament Danson Mungatana put the ICC on the spot for trying a sitting head of state.
Mungatana said that the court must shelve the trials until President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is also being accused, and Deputy President William Ruto finish their term.
Kituo Cha Sheria Executive Director Gertrude Angote however dismissed Mungatana saying that the court was going after the three Kenyans as individuals not as institutions.
This is the first time that the court will be trying a sitting head of state and his deputy after they were elected into office despite having the trials hanging over their heads.
Mochochoko also maintained that the international obligations that Kenya had as a signatory to the Rome Statute still remain.
“International law supersedes national law. You can imagine what would happen if each time a country changed its national law then the international laws also changed. That would be chaos,” he said.
Members of the National Assembly are also scheduled to reconvene on Thursday for a special sitting where they will start the process of withdrawing Kenya’s membership from the ICC.
Mochochoko further expressed concern at the politicisation of the Kenyan cases saying that the bad publicity that the court had received would not deter it.