Witness 789 testified almost entirely in private session on the second day of hearings in the new year in the International Criminal Court (ICC) trial of Deputy President William Samoei Ruto and former journalist Joshua arap Sang.
Only briefly on Tuesday did Witness 789 testify in open court when trial lawyer Alice Zago asked him background questions about the 2005 constitutional referendum.
From Presiding Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji’s introductory remarks at the start of Tuesday’s proceedings, it is clear Witness 789 began testifying on Monday. It seems that even the preliminaries of welcoming the witness, informing him to speak at a pace to allow interpreters to translate his testimony, and other related items were done in private session on Monday. These are usually done in public.
In a December 22 application, the prosecution applied for Witness 789 to testify completely in private session. It seems that request was granted for the most part. Based on the prosecution’s filing, it is clear Witness 789 is one of the nine witnesses the prosecution applied to the court to be compelled to testify after they had either recanted their statements or withdrawn without notice from being prosecution witnesses. Four of them testified in September last year after Trial Chamber V(a) granted, by majority, the prosecution’s application. Later the Appeals Chamber unanimously upheld the trial chamber’s majority decision.
Ruto and Sang are on trial at the ICC on three counts of crimes against humanity for their alleged roles in the violence that followed the December 2007 presidential election.
In a separate development, Karim Khan, the lead lawyer for Ruto, issued a statement on Tuesday on the killing of Meshack Yebei, who was allegedly abducted in late December and later found dead. Khan said he was releasing a statement on the matter in response to the prosecution’s assertions on Friday that Yebei was allegedly involved in interfering with prosecution witnesses.
Khan said a prosecution witness had threatened to abduct Yebei. Khan also said the defense independently received this information and was aware the prosecution had also received that information from another prosecution witness.
Ruto’s lawyer explained that Yebei first contacted the defense in July 2013, and he then became a defense witness. Khan said later the prosecution also interviewed him without the knowledge of the defense and during the interview, Yebei denied to the prosecution the allegations against him that he had interfered with prosecution witnesses.
“A thorough, timely and vigorous investigation into the circumstances of Mr. Yebei’s disappearance and apparent murder is imperative,” said Khan.
“Everyone should refrain from unnecessary public speculation and inflammatory comments at this time. The attack on Mr. Yebei was an attack on H.E. William Ruto and the fabric of justice itself,” said Khan.
The ICC’s Registrar acknowledged last week that Yebei had been under the protection of the court at some point but said he left that protection program.