, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 2 – The prosecution in the ICC case against Deputy President William Ruto wants initial statements of witnesses who declined to testify before being compelled to do so admitted as evidence, even as the trial adjourned prematurely on Tuesday.
Trial Attorney Anton Steynberg told the court that the Office of The Prosecutor (OTP) believed that the witnesses were reliable but had been coerced, bribed and intimidated to withdraw as witnesses or recant their evidence.
“This course of events and these unprecedented attacks on the integrity of the court which the prosecution submits has occurred, runs the risk of depriving this court of much of the relevant and necessary evidence which the chamber will require to reach a proper finding in this matter. As a result of this interference many witnesses have withdrawn cooperation from the OTP, have refused to testify voluntarily and we submit have falsely recanted their earlier versions that were given to the prosecution in witness statements,” Steynberg insisted.
The prosecutor told the International Criminal Court (ICC) that the continued withdrawal of witnesses and their evidence has affected the progress of its case against Ruto and former broadcaster Joshua arap Sang and urged the court to strictly ensure that witnesses who were issued with summonses to appear give their testimonies.
Steynberg claimed that the witnesses could not have on their own accord disowned the very statements they gave to the prosecution and also defended his office which he said could not have spent a lot of money to search for ‘lying’ witnesses to fix the accused persons.
During the submissions made by parties in the case, it was revealed that the court has so far summoned nine witnesses in Kenya.
The prosecution asked the court to use all means to ensure two other witnesses not living in Kenya also testify.
“In the majority of documents that have risen in the context into the OTP’s investigations into what it alleges is a concerted and organised interference with prosecution witnesses, we submit that has been the root cause for the necessity for the chamber to summon the nine witnesses in Kenya as well as two further witnesses who are outside of Kenya and who the prosecutor seeks to invoke compulsive measures to ensure they testify,” Steynberg said.
Though the prosecutor gave assurances that none of the three witnesses who have agreed to testify will be self-incriminated when they take the stand, he asked the court to question them for recanting their evidence to support the OTP’s allegations that they had been bribed to curtail their cooperation with the court.
He specifically asked the judges to allow the prosecution to quiz witnesses P0604 and P0496 to prove its allegations of bribery and intimidation.
His submission however rubbed the defence teams of Ruto and Sang the wrong way.
Though they were not entirely opposed to parts of his submission, they accused the prosecution of diverting the ‘narrative’ of the case and overstepping the rights of witnesses and the accused persons.