The ICC Trial Chamber has allowed Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to add two witnesses to her list in the case against Deputy President William Ruto.
The decision by the Trial Chamber judges came as Ms Bensouda warned individuals who are talking witnesses out of testifying against the accused persons at The Hague.
Judges Chile Eboe-Osuji, Olga Herrera Carbuccia and Robert Fremr were unanimous that additional of Witnesses P-604 and P-613 will not affect the defence’s preparation for the case. They, however, stated that the two witnesses should be among the last to testify.
“The Chamber considers that the addition of persons to the Prosecution’s witness list is justified and that their addition at this late stage does not cause undue prejudice to the Defence. The Chamber will therefore grant the request to add P-604 and P-613 to the Prosecution’s list of witnesses for trial, and will direct the Prosecution to call these persons among its last witnesses,” they ruled.
Ms Bensouda had applied for the addition of the two witnesses, arguing that their testimony will help the prosecution to prove its case that Mr Ruto and former radio journalist Joshua arap Sang played a key role in the 2007/8 post election violence.
“It (the prosecution) argues that is in the interests of justice as denying the request would send a wrong message to those who try to derail the Court’s cases, and would deprive the Chamber of critical evidence for the establishment of the truth,” they said.
However, they declined to allow Ms Bensouda to disclose the identities of the witnesses to the defence teams next Wednesday.
Instead, they ordered the prosecutor to disclose the identities by Monday next week.
SERVE AS A RELIEF
The decision could serve as a relief to the prosecutor who has been steadily losing witnesses who have opted not to testify against the deputy President and Mr Sang.
This week, three prosecution witnesses in the case have withdrawn citing manipulation of statements and psychological trauma and abuse as their grounds.
However, the ICC prosecutor dismissed the claims by the witnesses and said her office has conducted itself with respect throughout the investigations.
“The Office of the Prosecutor categorically rejects, in particular, allegations hat the Prosecution coerced or manipulated a witness to sign a statement against his will. This version of events is false. On the contrary, the safety and wellbeing of witnesses remains one of the Prosecutor’s highest priorities. The courage and integrity of witnesses are essential to the Court’s determination of the truth,” she said in a statement issued by The Hague.
She said whether the witnesses were coached or not will be known when the trial begins.
“The proper forum for determining the truth remains in the courtroom and not in the media. The Office of the Prosecutor will, therefore, not be drawn into public speculation on the status of witnesses,” she said.