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Worry over bid to expose second ICC witness


Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda (facing backwards) with her team inside the courtroom. Photo/ CAPITAL FM

Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda (facing backwards) with her team inside the courtroom. Photo/ CAPITAL FM

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 9 – Trial Chamber V (a) judges have once again expressed concern over attempts to disclose the identity of the second witness currently testifying against Deputy President William Ruto and his co-accused Joshua arap Sang, at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Presiding Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji said on Wednesday that there were efforts to reveal the identity of the witness, only referred as P0326 in the proceedings.

The witness took the stand on Monday and gave a blow-by-blow account of the Orange Democratic Movement strategy before the 2007 General Election.

He also claimed on Tuesday that Ruto was the ‘King of the Rift Valley’ at the time and that he used to use coded words during his public rallies.

“It has been brought to our attention that there are efforts being made by some people to reveal the identity of the witness currently on the stand,” said Judge Eboe-Osuji.

Senior Trial Attorney Anton Steynberg implored the judges to hold the sessions in private but later release redacted copies of the proceedings to members of the public.

He argued that this would protect the witness while at the same time enabling members of the public to follow the proceedings.

“If certain questions might be put in public session but are part of a lead up to a matter which requires privacy, then we should avoid if possible going in and out of private session for individual questions,” he said.

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The defence teams however objected to the proposal with Ruto’s lead counsel Karim Khan arguing that the Prosecutor must substantiate the claims.

Khan said that his client should not be punished by way of blanket private session as a result of something for which he has no control over.

He added that the private sessions would allow witnesses to go before the judges and provide false testimony without being held to account.

“We do have information that certain witnesses have been promised that they can lie with impunity before this court in closed session. There are intermediaries that have been part of that conspiracy and I am willing to go ex-parte on that,” said Khan.

Sang’s lawyer Katwa Kigen also observed that the private session would be unfair for his client because he wanted to be tried in public.

He argued that the Office of the Prosecutor should have known how they would handle attempts to reveal witness identities because they were already aware that such efforts would be made once the trial kicked off.

“The fact that there are efforts to unmask identities is not reason enough to increase protective measures. It is inherent in the request for protective measures that efforts will be made to unmask. Is it a man; is it a woman or otherwise?” he argued.

“The mere fact that people are exercising that option; an option that the Prosecutor anticipated is not a reason for heightened protective measures.”

As it is, more than three quarters of the proceedings at the ICC have been in-camera, making it difficult for members of the public to know what transpires in the courtroom.

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