, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 7 – The International Criminal Court (ICC) has expressed concern over the death of Meshack Yebei who was a defence witness in the case against Deputy President William Ruto.
ICC Registrar Herman von Hebel said the ICC remains strongly committed to the safety, security and well-being of all witnesses whether appearing for the prosecution or defence.
“The International Criminal Court (ICC) expresses its deep regret at the reported abduction and violent death of Mr Meshack Yebei. Mr Yebei was allegedly abducted on 28 December 2014 and found dead on 2 January 2015,” he stated.
The Registrar further pledged the court’s support in uncovering the mysterious death that has cast a dark shadow over the safety of ICC witnesses.
He said the ICC will be willing to work with authorities in Kenya, and had already made contact with them in relation to the death of Yebei.
“The court is profoundly concerned by this grave reported incident. It stands ready to provide the local authorities with any assistance, if required, in their investigations. Ensuring the safety and security of witnesses is a cornerstone of fair trials,” he said.
The registrar disclosed that before his death, Yebei had been offered protective measures by the ICC’s Registry but he turned down the offer to relocate from the area where he met his death.
“While the ICC Registry had offered Mr Yebei security measures, including a safe residency in a new location, he returned to Eldoret where the incident reportedly took place,” he said.
Yebei’s mutilated body was found floating in a river in Turbo Town after he went missing.
On Tuesday, Ruto’s lawyer Karim Khan asked for an investigation into the death of the 34 year old Yebei, who he stressed was a defence witness.
The Director of Public Prosecutions also directed the Criminal Investigations Department to speedily investigate the death of Yebei.
The ICC is protecting over 650 witnesses, victims and their families in the two Kenyan cases before the court following the 2008 Post Election Violence in Kenya.
Some 27 witnesses have testified in the case against DP Ruto and former broadcaster Joshua arap Sang.
The prosecution is set to close its case in March.
Judges of Trial Chamber V (b) are expected to issue a ruling on an application by ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda who withdrew charges against President Uhuru Kenyatta over lack of evidence.
Since investigations began, witness and victim intimidation has been a major concern.
The ICC Prosecution has particularly argued that its witnesses were bribed and intimidated which allegedly led to massive withdrawal of witnesses in the two cases.