A witness in the trial of Kenyan lawyer Paul Gicheru Tuesday broke down at the International Criminal Court (ICC) while testifying about how the staff of The Hague-based court abandoned him at a foreign country prompting him to register as a refugee.
This was even as the defence claimed of a plot by witnesses in the terminated trial of Deputy President William Ruto to fix Mr Gicheru in the bribery allegations that he is battling at the ICC.
The witness, P-0274, got emotional after being asked by Gicheru's defence team why he was enrolled in the ICC Witness Protection Program in 2011 yet he had not been listed as a witness in the case that was facing Deputy President William Ruto and radio journalist Joshua Sang.
He said the ICC investigators viewed him as a potential witness in the Ruto-Sang case and relocated him and his family to various places for their protection, the last being at an English-speaking country in the west in 2015.
The ICC staff abandoned him and failed to respond to multiple letters and emails written by him and his family asking ICC why it had failed to honour its promise of protecting and providing for him, he said. In the letters they accused the ICC staff of 'behaving like human traffickers', the court heard.
"We spoke as a family and decided to try our own way. I registered as a refugee with the government of that country. There was a time one of the ICC staff turned up and apologized for the lack of response adding that the letters had not reached their desk," said the witness sobbing as court closed to a private session.
Never wanted to be a witness
He stated that though he was a victim of the post-election violence, he never wanted to be a witness in the Ruto-Sang case and he had not asked the ICC for inclusion.
"The ICC officer told me he would ask the government to deport us back to Kenya but I said that was not possible because I had already been admitted as refugee. I asked to be given back my passport because I wanted to do away with them. I was tired and ready to do anything in that country," he stated with Mr Gicheru's lawyer Michael Karnavas adding emphasizing that "desperate times call for desperate measures".
The witness said he was later employed as a school cleaner, a contract that ended last year and he has since enrolled at a college in that country so that he can get a better job.
"I felt it would have been better if I was not relocated. He added that returning to his locality was hard because the people who disappeared for a while or travelled abroad were suspected to have to testify against the Deputy President.
Trial Chamber III judge Maria Samba heard that the witness had in April 2015 informed the ICC Office of The Prosecutor (OTP) that he was not safe living in any African country.
Enrolled in ICC programme
During Tuesday's proceedings, it also emerged that some of the 327 victims of the 2007 post-election violence enrolled in the ICC programme asked to be relocated to western countries. One of them named as Person-14 and a friend of P-0274, asked to be relocated to Canada alongside 25 of his family members.
The trial Chamber heard that both P-0274 and Person-14 are long-time friends and before the trial of Mr Gicheru commenced they kept on exchanging information about the Ruto-Sang.
The defence lawyer stated that the witness and Person-14 had colluded on using the ICC program to leave Kenya for abroad and that there was a plot to fix Mr Gicheru in the bribery allegations.
"Person-14 (in his statement to investigators) said you spoke on a plan of how to leave Kenya for the west. He gave his statement to the investigators and made references to you. He confirmed speaking to you and when interviewed again on March 13, 2021 he mentioned you," Mr Karnavas told the witness.
Mr P-0274 also got angry after the lawyer revealed that details of his statement and Person-14, in regard to the bribery allegations facing Mr Gicheru, were conflicting.
The witness was irked by a disclosure that the ICC investigators discussed his statement with Person-14 in April 2021 when Mr Gicheru's case was at the Pre-Trial Chamber, while he (the witness) was not given opportunity to discuss statement of Person-14. The investigators had recorded the witness' statement in March 2021.
"I have concerns about this. I am surprised he was given a chance to talk about what I said...," said the witness as the judge calmed him down and directed him raise the issues with the OTP.
But lawyer Karnavas told him: "The investigators reached Person-14 because of the discrepancies in your two statements. They wanted to know the truth. You and Person-14 gave different versions of events".
For instance, the court heard that while Mr P-0274 said he was taken to Mr Gicheru's office by Person-14 for the bribe of Sh500,000 to recant evidence against Ruto, Person-14 denied ever taking to the said office.
Person-14, who is also a witness, had also denied going to Mr P-0274 house.