A witness told the International Criminal Court (ICC) he made up a meeting that was supposed to have taken place at the home of William Samoei Ruto in December 2007, weeks ahead of the general elections that year.
Witness 604 said on Friday he made up the meeting “to make my statement more reliable.” The witness changed the account he gave the prosecution when Ruto’s lawyer, Essa Faal, presented him with information that three people Witness 604 claimed were at the December 13, 2007 meeting were elsewhere when the meeting was supposed to have taken place at Ruto’s home. Faal told Witness 604 the defense was able to determine their location using data retrieved from the three individuals’ mobile phone records. On September 5, Witness 604 told the court he had been instructed by another prosecution witness to claim he had been at a meeting at Ruto’s home where attacks against Kikuyus were planned.
In December 2007, Ruto was a Member of Parliament seeking reelection. Today, he is Kenya’s deputy president. He is on trial facing three counts of crimes against humanity for his alleged role in the bloodshed that followed the presidential poll of December 27, 2007. Ruto is on trial with former journalist Joshua arap Sang, who also faces three counts of crimes against humanity for his alleged role in the December 2007-February 2008 violence.
Before Witness 604 was confronted with the information about the individuals he claimed were at the meeting in Ruto’s home, he was shown a video in which Ruto is seen addressing a group of young people. Faal then asked him whether he was familiar with Ruto’s home in Sugoi, a location outside Eldoret town. Witness 604 said he was. Faal asked him to describe it. The witness was unable to.
Faal then asked the witness whether he recognized the house visible in the background of the video. Witness 604 said he did not. Faal asked him whether he had ever been there. The witness said he did not think so.
“We say, Mr. Witness, that this is Honorable Ruto’s home in Sugoi. What do you say to that?” said Faal.
“I’m not sure,” Witness 604 replied.
The witness is one of a group of nine people the court has ordered to testify under subpoena, at the request of the prosecution, after they disavowed earlier statements supporting the prosecution case. The prosecution has sought to attack the credibility of the revised testimony, delivered via video link from Kenya, against a background of court concerns over witness tampering and intimidation.
The day’s questions began with Faal revisiting a fundraising event the witness had told the prosecution that he attended and Ruto presided over. Faal had questioned Witness 604 about the fundraising event on Wednesday. On Friday, Faal asked the witness about the master of ceremonies he claimed was at the event and the members of the board of governors present.
Faal showed the witness a June 18, 2007 entry in a school’s logbook that showed the person he said was principal was actually deputy principal of the school in question. The school is not being named in open court because it could identify the witness, so it is only referred to by the pseudonym, location D. Similarly, the person the witness said was the principal and master of ceremonies at the fundraiser is identified by the pseudonym, N-Bis. Faal read out the entry which stated person N-Bis had been transferred and his replacement was appointed after the board of governors met on June 18, 2007.
“Why did you tell the prosecution that person N-Bis was the principal?” asked Faal.
“I had told them that he was the deputy principal,” replied Witness 604.
A little later, Faal asked, “Did you in fact know that person N-Bis was no longer working at location D as of November 2007?” Faal was referring to the month witness had said the fundraising event took place.
“I didn’t know,” the witness said.
Faal then showed Witness 604 a letter from the Ministry of Education in which the appointments of the individuals the witness said were members of the board of governors is announced. The letter in question stated those individuals would serve as members of the board of governors of location D from April 1, 2008.
“Mr. Witness, why then did you tell the OTP [Office of the Prosecutor] that person L and M were chairman and vice chairman of the board during the harambee [fundraising event] of 19th November 2007?” Faal asked.
“I wasn’t sure of the board of governors of the school,” replied Witness 604.
A little later, Faal pursued the issue and asked, “You told the court that you weren’t sure of their positions in the board, is that what you said?”
“Yes,” the witness said.
“Essentially witness, you cooked it up, isn’t it?” Faal continued.
“Yes,” responded Witness 604.
Faal also questioned the witness about another rally he said Ruto attended and about the correct date candidates for various elective posts handed in their nomination papers to the Electoral Commission of Kenya in the lead up to the December 2007 general elections.
The day ended before Faal could conclude his questioning of Witness 604. He informed the court he would complete his questions in the morning session on Monday. Sang’s lead lawyer, Joseph Kipchumba Kigen-Katwa, also informed the court he would need only one session on Monday to question Witness 604. Senior trial lawyer Anton Steynberg informed the court that Witness 495 was next in line to testify and would ready to do so on Monday.
Friday’s proceedings began with another witness appearing before Trial Chamber V(a). Presiding Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji acknowledged that Witness 516 was appearing via video link in Nairobi with his lawyer. Judge Eboe-Osuji informed the witness he could not testify immediately because there was already another witness on the stand and another two witnesses were scheduled to testify next. The judge informed the witness that the Registry of the ICC also has procedures it has to follow before a witness testifies. Witness 516 was then excused.
On Thursday, the trial was unable to proceed because the video link with Nairobi, from where Witness 604 is testifying, was down. The link was back up on Friday, and proceedings went on without any hitches.