Fatou Bensouda has dismissed as reckless and salacious claims by William Ruto’s lawyers that her staff sought sexual favours from witnesses and victims.
Responding to a filing at the International Criminal Court, the ICC Chief Prosecutor also dismissed calls for an independent prosecutor to investigate the allegations of witness lying and bribery, terming it as a wider scheme to scuttle future investigations.
In a heavily redacted May 24, 2016 submission, Bensouda accuses Kenyan deputy president William Ruto’s lawyers of making unsubstantiated claims about her office’s alleged interference with victims and the administration of justice. The ICC has issued three warrants of arrest for three Kenyans; –Walter Barasa, Paul Gicheru and Philip Kipkoech Bett – for alleged witness tampering.
Lawyer Karim Khan, who leads the Ruto defence team, filed a May 2, 2016 request for Trial Chamber V(a) to order independent investigations into alleged lying by prosecution witnesses. He claimed in court papers that intermediaries as well as officials in the Office of the Prosecutor had tampered with the collection of evidence by identifying and coaching witnesses.
The Ruto team also sensationally claimed that ICC staff members might have engaged in sexual relations with witnesses and their families, and were party to false financial claims made on the Victims and Witnesses Unit. Bensouda says the claims against her staff were meant to discredit them and the case they were investigating.
“The Prosecution also deprecates the Ruto Defence allegations of misconduct against ICC staff members that are unsubstantiated, sensationalist and in some cases gratuitous,” she says.
Bensouda says Ruto and Sang have no legal standing to make the request they had filed since they are no longer accused persons as the charges against them had been vacated.
The OTP admits that there would was the possibility of an honest mistake leading to “inconsistencies, inaccuracies or contradictions” in the witness testimonies.
“In the evidence of a witness that raises doubts to his or her credibility is not enough to establish that he or she has made a false statement. The Defence simply assume the version of events outlined in their request to be the truth, and the witnesses’ version to be false, based on whatever material it has at hand,” the Prosecutor adds.
Bensouda says Khan relied on evidence of witnesses that the Defence team themselves have alleged to be untruthful and unreliable in order to trigger an investigation.
“The material gathered by the Ruto Defence allegedly establishing that Prosecution witnesses lied is not before the Chamber and its sole purpose of their inclusion was to publicly embarrass the ICC and its staff members,” she says.
She adds that her office will consider appointing persons outside the trial team to review the material.
“However, the Prosecution will not accept the information subject to Defence conditions as to which members of its staff may or may not have access to it,” she says.
Read more on Ruto’s Defence team filing: