VOA News, Feb 11 2010 Alan Boswell
The United States says it plans to help protect those set to testify before the International Criminal Court against top Kenyan officials implicated in the country’s 2008 political violence. The Court’s chief prosecutor has expressed concern that key witnesses are coming under harassment.
The U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues, Stephen Rapp, told reporters in Nairobi that the United States would offer assistance in shielding witnesses from harm if a panel of judges authorizes ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo to precede with pre-trial investigations.
The ruling from the international court could come in the next few weeks.
Ambassador Rapp issued grim words of warning about Kenya’s future if those most responsible for the organized killings were not brought to justice.
“If there is not accountability for the violence of 2007, 2008, when the election cycle returns in 2012 it could happen again, and it could be worse,” Rapp said. “The blood of Kenyans would be spilled, the hopes for the future would be dashed, and it would affect the entire region.”
The diplomat would not give any specifics about what type of assistance the United States planned to offer, but suggested that re-location of the witnesses was a possibility.
Kenya has already passed into law the Witness Protection Act, but local human rights groups say that at least 22 Kenyans who had previously testified behind closed-door inquiries have reported harassment. A number have been forced into hiding, fearing for their lives. Some say the police themselves were complicit in the intimidation.