Allow ‘pre-intimidation testimony’ in Ruto ICC case: prosecutor

The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor wants judges to allow her to use testimony from witnesses who later withdrew from her faltering case against Kenya’s Vice President William Ruto.

The call came after prosecutor Fatou Bensouda already had to withdraw charges against the east African country’s President Uhuru Kenyatta for post-election violence in 2007-08 amid widespread accusations of witness intimidation.

Vice president Ruto and radio host Joshua arap Sang remain on trial before the Hague-based court for their alleged role in violence which prosecutors say left more than 1,200 dead and displaced 600,000 others.

In Ruto’s case, the prosecution has been “deprived of the evidence necessary to prove its case by virtue of the improper interference with its witnesses,” Bensouda said in a court document seen on Friday.

“No fewer than 16 of the prosecution’s 42 original witnesses have withdrawn their cooperation… and refused to testify, citing threats, intimidation and, or fears of reprisals,” she said in the filing, published on the ICC’s website.

Bensouda therefore urged judges to allow the admissibility “of records of prior interviews of missing and recanting witnesses who succumbed to improper influences.”

“Not to do so would deny the Chamber the ability to assess the whole of the evidence. It would also reward an attempt to obstruct justice,” she said.

If judges rule in favour of her request it would set a precedent at the world’s only permanent independent body to try the worst crimes, set up in 2002.

The ICC has come under fire including from Africa, which has accused it of unfairly targeting offenders from that continent.

Kenya itself has been at the forefront of an international campaign to put Kenyatta’s trial on hold as well as that of his rival-turned-partner Ruto.

Like Kenyatta, Ruto rejects the charges.

Prosecutors throughout a marathon five-year probe have consistently alleged major witness intimidation and bribery.

In Kenya, bitter memories remain of the unrest which shattered the country’s image as a beacon of regional stability.

Violence broke out after opposition chief Raila Odinga accused then president Mwai Kibaki of rigging his way to re-election in the vote, held in late 2007.

What began as political riots quickly turned into ethnic killings of Kenyatta’s Kikuyu tribe, who in turn launched reprisal attacks in the worst wave of violence to hit Kenya since independence in 1963.

Photo Credits : AFP

ICC joins trials of ex-I.Coast president and ally

The International Criminal Court on Wednesday decided to combine the trials of former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo and his close ally Charles Ble Goude because their cases alleging post-election violence are nearly identical.

The court “granted the prosecutor’s request to join the cases… in order to ensure the efficacy and expeditiousness of the proceedings,” the Hague-based court said in a statement.

Gbagbo’s refusal to concede defeat after presidential polls in late 2010 sparked a bloody five-month stand-off in the restive west African country in which some 3,000 people died, according to the United Nations.

The court said that Gbagbo and Ble Goude “have had charges confirmed against them which arise from the same allegations, namely crimes allegedly committed during the same four incidents by the same direct perpetrators who targeted the same victims.”

Gbagbo is alleged to have fomented a campaign of violence in a vain attempt to stay in power after being defeated in his bid for reelection by Ivory Coast’s current President Alassane Ouattara.

During the conflict, Ble Goude — dubbed Gbagbo’s “Street General” — whipped up support for the incumbent with fiery speeches urging mass mobilisation against what he called pro-Ouattara “rebels” and their foreign backers.

Prosecutors said Goude commanded men that murdered, raped and burned hundreds of people alive in an orgy of violence involving both sides that ended only after Gbagbo’s arrest in an assault on his Abidjan compound by Ouattara’s French- and UN-backed forces.

Ble Goude was arrested in Ghana in January 2013 and extradited to the Ivory Coast, but it wasn’t until March 2014 that he was sent to the Netherlands to face prosecution at the world’s only permanent war crimes court.

Gbagbo is being held in The Hague, where his trial is set to start in July 2015. No charges have been filed against Ouattara’s backers, raising claims of a “victor’s justice”.

A status conference will be held on April 21 and Gbagbo’s case will no longer start on July 7, the court said.

A court in Ivory Coast on Tuesday sentenced Laurent Gbagbo’s wife Simone to 20 years in prison for her role in the deadly post-election violence.

Photo Credits : AFP

ICC hands Bashir case to UN after Sudan fails to arrest leader

Sudan has failed to arrest its long-time leader Omar al-Bashir for genocide and war crimes, the International Criminal Court ruled on Monday, referring the matter back to the UN Security Council.

Bashir, 71, is wanted by The Hague-based ICC, the world’s only permanent court, for his role in the western Sudanese region of Darfur where insurgents rose up in 2003 in an ongoing conflict that has left more than 300,000 people dead.

He faces five counts of crimes against humanity including murder and torture, three of genocide and two of war crimes including attacking a civilian population.

The ICC in 2009 and 2010 issued two warrants against Bashir, but he continues to travel across the African continent despite a legal obligation by ICC member states to arrest him.

Sudan itself has not signed up to the ICC’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, but has been a member of the United Nations since 1956.

The Security Council referred the Darfur situation to the ICC for investigation in a 2005 resolution and Sudan, as a UN member is therefore obliged to cooperate, the tribunal judges said.

“The chamber considers that Sudan not only disregarded the 2009 and 2010 requests related to its obligations to cooperate in the arrest and surrender of Omar al-Bashir,” they said.

Khartoum also failed to inform the ICC why it could not carry out the arrest.

“This course of action calls upon the Security Council to take the necessary measures they deem appropriate,” the judges said.

The judges however warned that if no action was taken, the Security Council would never achieve its goal to end impunity for the world’s worst suspected offenders.

Bashir, who is gearing up for an April election expected to return him to office, last month accused the ICC and Western powers of “hounding” him.

He claimed the ICC was part “of the tools used to destabilise Sudan”, and said there never was a genocide in Darfur.

Apart from Bashir, four other Sudanese including a rebel leader is also on the ICC wanted list.

Photo Credits : AFP

ICC prosecutor in Uganda urges LRA rebel chief to surrender

The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor pleaded on Friday for the Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army rebel chief to surrender, vowing he would receive a fair trial just as his deputy faces.

Senior rebel leader Dominic Ongwen, a child-soldier-turned-warlord in Uganda’s LRA, appeared before the ICC in The Hague for the first time in January, charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda called for the surrender of Ongwen’s rebel supremo Joseph Kony, the last LRA rebel indicted by the ICC believed to be still at large.

“Leave the bush and encourage other members of the LRA to do the same,” ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said, during a five-day tour of Uganda.

“Stop committing crimes against your own people and others, do the right thing and surrender.”

Bensouda is visiting Uganda to update people on Ongwen’s case, including renewing contacts with possible witnesses.

“The wheels of justice may turn slowly, but turn they surely will, let us leave justice to take its course,” Bensouda said.

“Let us embrace the independent and impartial judicial process offered by the court as a means of bringing healing and closure for victims of mass crimes.”

The LRA is accused of killing more than 100,000 people and abducting 60,000 children in a bloody rebellion launched in northern Uganda almost three decades ago.

Known as the “White Ant”, Ongwen was notorious for leading his troops on punishment raids, which often involved slicing off the lips and ears of victims as grim calling cards.

The LRA first emerged in northern Uganda in 1986, where it claimed to fight in the name of the Acholi ethnic group against Museveni’s newly established government.

But over the years it has moved across the porous borders of the region. The LRA shifted from Uganda to sow terror in southern Sudan before again moving to northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and finally crossing into southeastern Central African Republic and Sudan.

“Let me be equally clear to all other LRA fighters and followers: you have nothing to fear from the ICC. We are only concerned with those top five commanders against whom the court has issued warrants of arrest,” Bensouda added.

“Abandon violence and choose a new, more promising path; a path which has a future. Return to your families, communities and country, and start the process of rebuilding your life. It is not too late.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Mugabe says Africa must pull out of the ICC, Uhuru pledges a Sh92 million for African Court

The new African Union chairman Robert Mugabe said Saturday that Africa must pull out of the International Criminal Court. It must be on the agenda of next AU Summit in June in South Africa, said Mugabe who is also the President of Zimbabwe.

President Mugabe spoke during the closing ceremony of the 24th AU summit which ended in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Saturday.

Mugabe proposal came on the heels of yet another initiative by the AU member states to establish an African Court of Justice and Human Rights to handle African cases currently referred to the ICC , at the Hague, Netherlands.

President Uhuru Kenyatta earlier said the establishment of the proposed African Court of Justice and Human Rights is now unstoppable and announced Kenya’s commitment of Sh92 million for the new judicial institution.

The President said Africa is poised to establish a broader African transitional justice policy framework and an African Court of Justice to handle all criminal cases from Africa currently referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague, Netherlands.

The Head of State said he has already signed the Malabo Protocol on the African Court before the necessary instruments are transmitted to parliament for ratification.

 

Collapse of Uhuru ICC case is a victory for Africa – AU

The African Union has described the withdrawal of the ICC case against President Uhuru Kenyatta as a victory for the entire continent.

Speaking during its 24th summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, African leaders described the collapse of the case as a win against the forces of injustice.

“The victory for Kenyatta is victory for all Africa”, outgoing AU chairperson and President of Mauritania, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz said at the opening session of the summit attended by over 30 Heads of State.

Aziz underlined the urgency to operationalise the proposed African Court of Justice to provide “African solutions to African problems”.

He said that for the last six years, Kenya has pushed for the comprehensive overhaul of the Rome Statute to ensure that its mechanisms recognise African realities and socio-political context with regard to conflict resolution, justice, accountability and political stability.

“And because these efforts have not succeeded, Kenya has indicated that it will associate itself with the new initiative to establish an African International justice mechanism that handles African challenges from an African perspective,” he said

 

Yebei ‘spotted’ in outskirts of Eldoret town

The search for the missing ICC witness Meshack Yebei took a new twist when eyewitnesses said they have on several occasions spotted a man resembling Yebei in the outskirts of Eldoret town even after reports of his disappearance.

Boda boda riders in Kiplombe led Yebei’s family led by his brother Reverend Moses Kisoria to a semi-permanent house where he was said to have been seen as recently as Saturday last week.

“I saw him last Saturday. I have carried him on my motorcycle twice since you people reported that he had disappeared,” one of the riders said.

Neighbours however contradicted the allegations of the riders saying no one has been to the house since the family left for Christmas.

Yebei was allegedly abducted on December 27, 2014 from Turbo market North of Eldoret where he had gone to have his sick child treated.

A body initially believed to be that of Yebei’s was retrieved by police at River Yala bridge on January 5 this year bearing marks of barbaric torture – his ears were chopped off and his head had deep cut wounds.

A DNA test however established that the retrieved body was that of Hussein Yusuf.

Yusuf was buried on January 22 by family at the Eldoret Muslim cemetery.

 

Jubilee to sponsor motion to withdraw Kenya from ICC

The Jubilee coalition has agreed to sponsor a motion in parliament seeking to withdraw Kenya as a member of the Rome Statute.

Addressing the press at an ongoing retreat of  Jubilee members  in a Naivasha hotel, the Mps and Senators agreed to sponsor two private bills over the ICC.

According to  leader of the majority Aden Duale, the process of pulling Kenya out of the ICC  has kicked off.  “It’s now clear that the ICC is a political court and we have embarked on the process of pulling Kenya out of this process,” he said.

Duale said the  move would not affect the ongoing case against deputy President William Ruto and his co-accused, journalist Joshua Sang

On his part, Senator Kithure Kindiki said that they would  stand behind the two as their cases continued in The Hague.

He said that Kenya was a sovereign state which would not be ruled by foreign masters through  institutions like the ICC.

“We have given the ICC total co-operation but we have come to learn that this institution is full of lies, injustice and neo-colonialism,” he said.

The leaders however declined to comment on the formation of a  Jubilee Alliance Party (JAP)  saying that the issue was still under discussion and would be addressed later. Kindike   said.

 

DNA tests show body is not Yebei’s

A CID officer has said DNA test results show that the contested body is that of Yusuf Hussein, not ICC witness Meshack Yebei. Yebei’s elder brother, Ben, told The Star Newspaperthat the officer gave the family the information on Thursday.

He said an official announcement by CID Director Ndegwa Muhoro on Thursday would put a stop to uncertainties. Yebei’s family is however seeking an order barring Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital mortuary in Eldoret from releasing the body.

Hussein’s family is expected to collect his body for burial today. Uncertainties about the identity of the recovered body arose following Yebei and Hussein’s disappearances over the same period.

Yebei’s family had earlier insisted that the body found floating in River Yala, Nandi county in December was their son’s. Police had however said fingerprint tests indicated the body was that of Hussein, whose relatives had also claimed positively identifying.

Both families had gone ahead with burial preparations. An activist alleged that the confusion is a deliberate move to cover up Yebei’s death.

Ugandan LRA commander Dominic Ongwen arrives at Hague court

Top Ugandan rebel commander Dominic Ongwen has arrived in The Hague to stand trial on war crimes charges. Mr Ongwen, a feared commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), was taken into custody at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on arrival.

He was arrested in the Central African Republic (CAR) earlier this month. His trial will be the first time that a member of the LRA, led by the notorious warlord Joseph Kony, has faced international justice.

Uganda agreed that he should be tried by the ICC despite being a fierce critic of The Hague-based court. US and African forces had been searching for Mr Ongwen since 2011.

He is said to be the deputy to LRA commander Joseph Kony, who is still on the run. The ICC said in a statement that Mr Ongwen will be held in a detention centre in the Netherlands until his trial.

Kibaki, Kimemia, Mututho, Thuo linked to 2008 Mungiki attacks

Politicians and senior government officials helped to coordinate the massacre of ODM supporters in the 2007-08 post-election violence, according to an International Criminal Court document.

The 69-page Pre-Trial Brief was compiled by the office of Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and posted on the Internet on Monday night.

It said President Uhuru Kenyatta, retired President Mwai Kibaki, Secretary to the Cabinet Francis Kimemia and the late Security Minister John Michuki were central in the planning of the attacks.

Bensouda also named Solicitor General Njee Muturi and former Embakasi MP Ferdinand Waitutu as among the powerful individuals who influenced her key witnesses to conceal Uhuru’s involvement in the bloodshed.

According to Bensouda, this team of senior PNU officials bankrolled the outlawed Mungiki sect that went on a killing spree, raped women, burnt houses and forcibly circumcised ODM supporters in Naivasha and Nakuru.

“Mr Kimemia explained that Mwai Kibaki, Kenyatta and Muthaura had identified Naivasha as the target for the attack,” Bensouda said of an alleged meeting between Kimemia and the Mungiki.

She said that during the violence, Kimemia transmitted Uhuru’s orders to the Mungiki, maintained regular contact with senior Mungiki commanders, and distributed money to them.

“Before the Rift Valley attacks, Mungiki members received automatic weapons, ammunition, grenades, camouflage uniforms and police handcuffs that the Accused [Uhuru] and Mr Muthaura had authorised PNU intermediaries, including Mr Kimemia, to supply them,” the Brief said.

Read more: http://www.the-star.co.ke/news/kibaki-kimemia-mututho-thuo-linked-2008-mungiki-attacks

Bensouda releases evidence in Uhuru’s case

ICC chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on Monday released the evidence that her office previously intended to use in the case against President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The allegations contained in the Pre-trial brief (redacted) link the President to Mungiki. The evidence alleges that Uhuru was responsible for an alliance between the PNU party and Mungiki before the 2007 general elections. Uhuru is also accused of organising funding for the Mungiki during the violence that followed the election.

In addition, the document links key members of the government as intermediaries in the “common plan” between Mungiki and PNU as well as during organisation during the violence in Nakuru and Naivasha.

Bensouda withdrew charges against the President on December 5 after ICC judges rejected Bensouda’s request for a further adjournment but told her to release her evidence before January 19. The full text of Bensouda’s evidence is available at www.jfjustice.net.

– The Star

Uganda rebel handed over to CAR ahead of Hague transfer

Captured Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebel commander Dominic Ongwen has been handed over to the Central African Republic to be transferred to the International Criminal Court, the Ugandan army said on Saturday.

Ongwen surrendered last week, dealing a major blow to the LRA’s three-decade-long campaign across several central African nations. He has been sought by the ICC for almost a decade to face charges including war crimes, murder, enslavement, inhumane acts and directing attacks against civilians.

Ugandan army spokesman Paddy Ankunda said in a statement that Ongwen had been “flown to Bangui for further management” and was “destined to (the) Hague”.

Ongwen first gave himself to US troops in CAR, and was then handed over to Uganda’s army, then to African Union troops and finally to the CAR’s government, according to Ugandan officials.

Uganda said the final stage of the handover was witnessed by a US diplomat, but could not confirm if Ongwen was still in Bangui or on a plane bound for The Hague.

A former child soldier himself, Ongwen was a senior aide to LRA leader and warlord Joseph Kony, who is still at large and being pursued by regional troops and US special forces.

The LRA first emerged in northern Uganda in 1986, where it claimed to fight in the name of the Acholi ethnic group against the government of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

But over the years the LRA has moved across the porous borders of the region: it shifted from Uganda to sow terror in southern Sudan before again moving to northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and finally crossing into southeastern CAR in March 2008.

Combining religious mysticism with an astute guerrilla mind and bloodthirsty ruthlessness, Kony has turned scores of young girls into his personal sex-slaves while claiming to be fighting to impose the Bible’s Ten Commandments.

Photo Credits : AFP

Police say DNA tests show body thought to be ICC witness Meshack Yebei not his

The controversy surrounding the death of slain ICC witness Meshak Yebei has taken a new twist after police established the body was not his. CID officer John Kariuki says fingerprints examined show the body belongs to one Yusuf Ali. A joint DNA test with the two families will be conducted to establish the correct kin before the body is released for burial.

LRA commander ‘to be sent to ICC’

BBC – A senior commander in the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is to be sent to the International Criminal Court for trial, a Ugandan army spokesman says.

Dominic Ongwen, known as the “White Ant” and considered by some to be a deputy to LRA chief Joseph Kony, was taken into US custody last week.

Rebels in the Central African Republic (CAR) said he was captured; US officials say he defected.

The LRA has abducted thousands of children for fighting and sex slavery.

Both Mr Ongwen and warlord Joseph Kony are wanted by the ICC for crimes against humanity.

Paddy Ankuda from the Ugandan army told Reuters that the transfer would be made by the CAR, where he surrendered.

Police probe witness killing in Kenyan deputy president’s trial

Kenyan prosecutors have ordered an investigation into the murder of a witness in the International Criminal Court trial of Kenyan Vice President William Ruto, who is accused of masterminding post-election killings in 2007.

Meshack Yebei, described by Ruto’s lawyer as a “critical” witness for the politician’s defence case, was found dead — and badly mutilated according to some reports — on January 4 in western Kenya’s Nandi district.

Kenya’s Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko ordered the probe in a letter to police seen by AFP. The order calls for a “speedy and thorough investigation to be conducted into the murder with a view of bringing those responsible to justice.”

Yebei disappeared on December 28 and a week later the local businessman’s decomposed body was discovered in a river.

Ruto has been on trial at The Hague-based ICC since September 2013 on charges of organising post-election violence in the east African country in 2007-2008. More than 1,200 people died and 600,000 were displaced in the chaos.

But both Ruto and co-defendant Joshua Arap Sang, a radio presenter, have denied all charges.

Ruto’s lawyer, Karim Khan, said in a letter seen by AFP that Yebei was a “critical witness to the defence” and had been referred to the ICC witness protection unit.

He added that “news of his apparent abduction and murder is both shocking to us and a matter of grave concern.”

Khan also called for DNA tests to confirm the identity of the corpse, saying it was “important for us that the facts and circumstances of his alleged killing be fully investigated.”

Kenya’s ICC investigations have been littered with allegations of witness intimidation, bribery and false testimony.

Charges against President Uhuru Kenyatta were dropped last month after the ICC prosecutor was ordered to strengthen or abandon the case.

Kenyatta maintained his innocence throughout and reacted by saying his conscience was “absolutely clear” regarding the post-election killings, the worst in Kenya’s history since winning independence from Britain in 1963.

Abducted ICC witness found dead

The ICC witness kidnapped last week has been found murdered and his eyes gouged out, tounge cut off, genitals chopped off and shot in the head. The bizarre ritual style killing has left his Turbo village in shock and mourning.

The body of Meshack Yebei, 34, bore other marks of barbaric torture – his ears were chopped off and his head had deep knife or machete wounds.

Yebei’s mutiliated and burnt body was retrieved on Saturday from the River Yala bridge by police in Nandi county. The bridge is about 15km Southwest of Kapsabet town.

On Wednesday last week, the Star exclusively reported how Yebei was dramatically abducted by people who later pretended to be ICC investigators in SMS messages to his mother and a friend.

The family says he was kidnapped near his home in Uasin Gishu county on Sunday December 28th and driven away by unidentified people who had two black cars. Witnesses said he was abducted at Turbo Market, about 35km North of Eldoret along the Eldoret-Webuye road and bundled into a car as soon as he left a shop.

The man had reportedly expressed fears for his life after what he called “differing with some people” over the ICC cases. “He had even informed the police after some strange people went to his home looking for him,” said a brother who declined to disclose his identity.

Sources said that the man was initially a prosecution witness. However, Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi said the man was about to testify for the defence.

“He was our witness and we want police to investigate what happened. We want to know the truth,” said Sudi. Yesterday, Nandi North Criminal Investigations Officer Samson Thoya confirmed the decomposing body had multiple deep cuts.

The CID boss added that police at the neighbouring Chepsonoi police station were informed of the remains by people who were fetching water and that the body had been trapped in-between two rocks.

“As far as we are concerned, we are investigating a case of homicide, and we are trying to piece together if there could have been anyone who witnessed either the killing or those who may have tossed the body into the river,” Thoya said.

The body was taken to the Kapsabet Referral Hospital mortuary, pending investigation and possible identification as the fingers were said to have been interfered with, police said.

A team of detectives visited the mortuary in Kapsabet town to start investigations. Family members who visited the morgue confirmed that the body was that of their relative.

“We have little to say now, but will issue a comprehensive report,” said Joseph Mutai, a relative. His wife Lilian said they were shocked by the death.

Villagers at Yebei’s home expressed anger over the killing and demanded an explanation from the government. “He had expressed fears for his wife and even recorded a statement at the Eldoret police station,” a devastated Lilian said.

Five relatives recorded statements with the police after the man went missing. On the day of his abduction, Yebei had gone to buy water for his sick child at the market centre.

“He had taken his child to hospital at Turbo together with his wife, but, while at the hospital, the child began vomiting, and he decided to go buy water at the market at about midday, but he never returned,” said his elder brother.

After the abduction, a text message from an unfamiliar number was sent to the witness’s mother and a friend, giving the impression that he was in Uganda with a team from the ICC.

The message was written in Kalenjin: abwati ale ichamegei, kwawe uganda urgently. kimi ak ngamotik cheb bensouda nekile patrick ak lugusa. ami komie, mosich wasiwasi. meshack ako namba nenyu ni (I hope you are okay, I went to Uganda urgently. I am with Bensouda’s people Patrick and Lugusa. This is Meshack, I am alright don’t worry and this is my number’.

The number was 256-773125351.

– The Star

Missing ICC witness’s kin record statements

Five people recorded statements Wednesday with police in Eldoret over the apparent kidnapping of an ICC witness linked to the Kenya cases.

The witness’s wife, his two brothers and two close friends recorded statements at the CID offices.

Some family members said they had received information the witness was snatched on Sunday by unknown people at Turbo.

They were in two black cars that sped towards Eldoret town, police were told.

The witness was reportedly bundled into one of the cars as soon as he left the shop where he had gone to buy water for his sick child.

“He had taken his child to hospital at Turbo together with his wife. While at the hospital, the child began vomiting and he decided to go buy water at the market at about midday, but he never returned,” said his elder brother, who cannot be named because ICC witnesses cannot be identified.

The family members said they are working with the police to trace the witness.