Kenyan witnesses in ICC cases threatened: official
Phakiso Mochochoko, head of jurisdiction at The Hague based court. By Tony Karumba (AFP)
NAIROBI (AFP) - Prosecution witnesses in the trial of four Kenyans set to appear before the International Criminal Court (ICC) are under increasing threat and intimidation, a top ICC official said Thursday.
"There are indications of people who are intimidating witnesses," said Phakiso Mochochoko, head of jurisdiction at The Hague based court.
"We want the government of Kenya to ensure that the people intimidating witnesses are brought to book," Mochochoko told reporters in the Kenyan capital.
The international war crimes court in The Hague ruled earlier this year that four Kenyans will be tried in April on charges of fomenting deadly post-poll violence in 2007-08, in which over 1,100 people were killed.
In one case, Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, 50, and ex-civil service chief Francis Muthaura, 65, face five charges of crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, persecution, deportation and other inhumane acts.
In the other case, former agriculture minister William Ruto, 45, and radio presenter Joshua Arap Sang, 36, who were opposition supporters in 2007, each face three crimes against humanity charges.
Both Kenyatta and Ruto plan to run in presidential elections due in March.
Mochochoko said that while key prosecution witnesses are outside Kenya, "this does not mean some people cannot find out where they are."
He said that the threats were also targeted "to family members of those perceived, correctly or incorrectly, to be witnesses."
"The threats continue, and maybe there will be more threats as we approach the trial date - these threats must stop," he said, adding that some threats were carried out via social media on the Internet.
"The numbers are good enough to warrant an investigation... as soon as we collect enough evidence, we will make the charges," he said.
The ICC says the outcome of the upcoming Kenyan vote will have no effect on the process, due to start a month later.
"The case against the suspects will not go away, irrespective of the outcome of the elections," he said.
"The ICC process is a judicial process, not a political one. Whether you are a king or a prime minister you will face the same plight as anyone else."