ICC Prosecutor: Kenyan accused being investigated for links to witness interference allegations

Judges and prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC) are looking into whether four prominent Kenyans facing trial at The Hague-based court are linked to allegations of witness interference.

On Monday, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told journalists in the Kenyan capital Nairobi that her office is investigating the allegations with a view to charging anyone linked to witness interference. Bensouda did not give any details about whom the prosecution is investigating or which witnesses have been interfered with.

“Both the judges and the Office of the Prosecutor are closely monitoring these conditions that have been set up by the Chamber for witnesses not to be interfered with,” Bensouda said when she was asked whether the prosecution were investigating any links between the four Kenyan accused and allegations of witnesses interference. In March last year, Pre-Trial Chamber II granted the four freedom for the duration of their case on the condition that they are not tied directly or indirectly with witness interference or tampering and attend hearings in person.

“And we do have information, we are verifying the information, and we are concerned that these witnesses are obviously being interfered with or at least this climate of fear is being created for witnesses not to want to come forward to give evidence,” Bensouda said.

In the past the prosecution has stated that witnesses under the court’s protection are safe, though acknowledging there had been attempts to intimidate or interfere with people who were assumed to be ICC witnesses. However, since the status conference in July, the prosecution has said it is concerned about witness interference.

Bensouda said during her visit she hopes to unblock delays in the government that have followed past requests the Office of the Prosecutor has made for information, among other things. Bensouda declined to be specific about the information the prosecution is seeking.

“It is a request that will advance the information that we are seeking to present before the judges. So it is good that we get this information, but also that we get the information in a timely manner. That is very important for us,” Bensouda said.

Bensouda, who arrived in Kenya on Sunday, is making her first visit to the country after her appointment as ICC Prosecutor in July. Her appointment had the full backing of the 54-member state African Union. In her statement, she made a point of highlighting the fact that her candidature had the support of President Mwai Kibaki.

Bensouda plans to meet the president, Prime Minister Raila Odinga and other government officials. She will also travel to the country’s Rift Valley region to meet with victims of the violence that consumed Kenya between December 2007 and February 2008.

Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, former Cabinet Minister William Samoei Ruto, former Public Service Chief Francis Kirimi Muthaura, and radio journalist Joshua arap Sang will be tried in April 2013 on several counts of crimes against humanity at the ICC.