ICC judges order witness in William Ruto case to appear via video link

What you need to know:

  • Witness 727 had refused to appear before the court.
  • The witness set to appear via video link from a remote location on March 23.

The International Criminal Court has ordered a witness considered “outstanding” to prove the case against Deputy President William Ruto, and radio journalist Joshua Sang, to testify via video link.

Trial Chamber V(A) judges Chile Eboe-Osuji (presiding) Olga Herrera Carbuccia and Robert Fremr on Tuesday evening directed that the ICC registry start modalities to ensure that Witness 727 gives his account of events.

The witness, which Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda argues has “testimony that is necessary for the determination of truth”, had earlier been relocated to be prepared to testify.

But he later got cold feet and refused to appear before the court.

When prosecutors investigated further, the witness is said to have “placed conditions” before he could appear before the court.

On Tuesday, the judges ruled that Witness 727, being one of the “very few outstanding witnesses in the prosecution's case” should appear via video link from a remote location on March 23 this year.

“In the interest of furthering expeditious proceedings, the Chamber considers that the most expedient course (without undue prejudicial effect on proper administration of justice or the law) is to grant the relief as set out by the Prosecution…

“In that respect, the Chamber also notes that video link has been the means by which all other summonsed witnesses have testified in the case… (The Chamber) requires the appearance of Witness 727 to testify before this Chamber by video-link…” they said in a decision.

CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY

Mr Ruto is standing trial for what prosecutors charge as being criminally responsible as an indirect co-perpetrator for crimes against humanity of murder, forcible transfer of population and persecution during the 200708 post-election violence.

Mr Sang faces similar charges although prosecutors believe he “otherwise contributed” to the commission of the crimes against humanity.

The decision by the judges on Tuesday is a culmination of a long-running dispute between the Prosecutor and the witness over whether he should appear or whether the Kenyan government should compel witnesses to appear before the ICC in case they decline to do so.

In October last year, the Appeal Chamber agreed with Trial Chamber V(A) to require witnesses to appear either in person or via video link. It found the Kenyan government under obligation to ensure witnesses appear.

The argument over the way Witness 727 should appear had revolved around four options which included physical presence or virtual presence. The Court has concealed the other two options.

On Tuesday evening, the judges argued option two, video link, “is not significantly different from the procedure applied to the other summonsed witnesses”.

“The Chamber is satisfied that the clarification makes proceeding under Option Two sufficiently satisfying to enable forward movement in the circumstances,” they ruled.

The witness will present his testimony with distorted facial pixilation, distorted voice, use of pseudonyms and limited private sessions.

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