A witness admitted to the International Criminal Court (ICC) that he was not present at two meetings where violence targeting Kikuyus was planned as he had previously told the prosecution.
Witness 658 made the admission under questioning from Karim Khan, the lead lawyer of Deputy President William Samoei Ruto. Khan was cross-examining him on the admission he first made to the prosecution in November this year that he was not at the two meetings he had told the prosecution about when he was interviewed in August 2010.
On Thursday, Witness 658 told the court a source told him about the meeting held at Sirikwa Hotel in Eldoret on September 2, 2007, retracting his previous statement to the prosecution that he was present at that meeting.
During his August 2010 interview with the prosecution, the witness said Ruto chaired the Sirikwa Hotel meeting and had stated Kalenjins should unite to defend themselves against the Kikuyu. Between November 10 and November 20 this year when Witness 658 was being prepared for his testimony, he informed the prosecution that he was not present at that meeting, and he only knew about it from a source. The source was not named in public on Thursday.
“I’m putting it to you that you told the prosecution in November that you lied and that you were not at that meeting that you described to the prosecution in 2010. Is that correct or not?” asked Khan.
“I didn’t say I lied. I said I get from source. There [is a] difference between getting from source and then lying” the witness replied.
Witness 658 is testifying in the ICC trial of Ruto and former journalist Joshua arap Sang. Both men have been charged with three counts of crimes against humanity for their alleged roles in the violence that followed the December 2007 elections.
The witness also admitted he did not attend a meeting at Ruto’s home in Sugoi. Khan said that from evidence the prosecution disclosed to the defense the witness told investigators about the Sugoi meeting on August 8, 2010. At the time the witness said the meeting took place on September 2, 2007. Khan said that on June 6, 2011 the witness then changed the date of the meeting to November 2, 2007. Then during the preparation meetings held between November 10 and November 20 this year, the witness told the prosecution he was not at that meeting.
“You’ve told the prosecution just a few days ago that you were never at that meeting. Is that so?” Khan asked on Thursday.
“Perfect your honor,” the witness replied. He also told the court he had never been to Ruto’s home in Sugoi.
Some of the questioning on the planning meetings took place in private session where other details may have been touched on. In open court Khan asked the witness whether he agreed that his account of the meetings was used by the majority of Pre-Trial Chamber II to confirm the charges against Ruto. He mentioned in particular paragraphs 126 to 133 of the pre-trial chamber’s decision. Presiding Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji intervened before the witness could answer and told Khan he could make that point in arguments.
The particular paragraphs Khan referred to in Pre-Trial Chamber II’s confirmation of charges decision make reference to the statements of Witness 1 and Witness 8. It is likely the pseudonyms of the witnesses referred to in the confirmation of charges decision have been changed, but all the lawyers involved in the case would know the changes as do the judges.
Khan also questioned the witness on his December 3 testimony about the funeral of Lucas Sang, a former 1988 Olympic athlete. Khan played excerpts of the video of the funeral he told the court was obtained from Lucas Sang’s family. The excerpts Khan played were to challenge the witness on his testimony that a few people spoke at the funeral including Joshua arap Sang.
In his December 3 testimony, the witness said Joshua arap Sang had given his condolences to the family but also spoke on behalf of Ruto, who was not present. In the video, it is Joseph Kipchumba Kigen-Katwa who is seen reading a condolence message from Ruto. Kigen-Katwa leads Joshua arap Sang’s defense team.
When Khan tried to read into the record the transcript of the translation of what Ambassador Tabitha Seii had said in Kalenjin at the funeral, he was stopped by Judge Eboe-Osuji. The judge said there were at least three edits that were apparent in the excerpt, so it was not clear if all Seii had said was recorded on video. In his December 3 testimony, Witness 658 had said Seii had made inciting remarks, and on Thursday he expressed his reservations about whether the video showed the complete speech Seii gave.
Judge Eboe-Osuji held a brief discussion with his fellow judges Olga Herrera Carbuccia and Robert Fremr. The judge then announced that they had decided that Khan could no longer read the transcript into the record, but the transcript would be admitted as an exhibit as well as the video.
The afternoon session was conducted mostly in private session. Towards the end of the day, trial lawyer Lucio Garcia began his re-examination of the witness briefly in open session before the court returned to private session. When the court came out of private session, Judge Eboe-Osuji informed the witness that the lawyers finished questioning him, and he was discharged from testifying to the ICC.
Trial Chamber V(a) will hold a status conference on Friday to discuss its schedule for next year. Friday is the last working day of the ICC after which the court will be on recess until January 5, 2015.