Witnesses who testified against Deputy President William Ruto at the International Criminal Court can rest easy – for now – after judges rejected a request to appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate them for lying.
Ruto’s lawyers, led by Karim Khan, requested the judges who had been trying him for crimes against humanity to appoint an external prosecutor to investigate alleged witness tampering and interference by the Office of the Prosecution (OTP). The application, filed a month after the termination of the Ruto-Sang case because of what one judge called “intolerable levels of witness interference and political meddling”, claimed that there was reason to believe that several OTP witnesses and/or ICC staff members may have committed offences against the administration of justice.
Khan claimed intermediaries and officials in the OTP had tampered with the collection of evidence by identifying and coaching witnesses., and that ICC staff 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. Read more on: www.jfjustice.net/en/icc-cases/fresh-twist-as-ruto-lawyers-go-after-bensouda-s-witnesses
ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda dismissed the claims as reckless and salacious, and instead accused Ruto’s lawyers of making unsubstantiated claims about her office’s alleged interference with victims and the administration of justice. The Common Legal Representative for Victims, Wilfred Nderitu, opposed the Ruto lawyers’ application, especially the proposal to refer to Kenya a witness tampering cases against three Kenyans against whom warrants of arrest have been issued.
The ICC has issued warrants of arrest against Walter Barasa, Paul Gicheru and Philip Kipkoech Bett for alleged witness interference in the Ruto-Sang case, which has been filed by the prosecution.
Judges yesterday dismissed the request by Ruto’s lawyers, saying it would be inappropriate for them to exercise jurisdiction on the merits of the case after they had terminated it, but added that the request could be filed elsewhere.
“As the Ruto Counsel’s application aims to initiate an investigation against certain targets, the proper forum for the applicants to bring their complaint would be the Pre-Trial Division,” reads the decision in part.
The three-judge bench consisting of Chile Eboe-Osuji (presiding), Robert Fremr and Herrero Carbuccia, also cautioned lawyers in the case against personalising their work.
“As a final observation, the Chamber notes the evident acrimony that permeated the parties’ submissions… The Chamber … reminds counsel that the dictates of professional responsibility require counsel to maintain detachment at all times from the case they are litigating,” the judges said.
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