By PETER LEFTIE and JOHN NGIRACHUPosted Wednesday, November 10 2010 at 11:39
Suspended Higher Education minister William Ruto has come under criticism over claims that witnesses were manipulated to implicate him in the post election violence.
Justice minister Mutula Kilonzo challenged Mr Ruto to offer evidence of witness bribery and manipulation to the International Criminal Court (ICC) if he had any.
“I plead with Ruto and others who want to go to the Hague to meet Ocampo. If you have any evidence of witness manipulation, you have a responsibility to report it to Justice Rawal.”
“You can also report it to Ocampo, or the cabinet sub committee, but let him not intimidate witnesses,” said Mr Kilonzo, who spoke on the sidelines of a breakfast meeting between the Ministry and political parties.
Mr Kilonzo was reacting to Mr Ruto’s allegations that the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) commissioner Hassan Omar recruited, coached and bribed witnesses to link him to the post election violence.
Mr Ruto claimed that the evidence the ICC is relying on was collected from the witnesses who were recruited and coached by Mr Omar long before the court’s chief prosecutor, Mr Luis Moreno Ocampo started his own investigations into the chaos.
He challenged Mr Omar to tell Kenyans how much money he paid the witnesses apart from promising them good life abroad if they linked him to the violence that left 1,333 people dead and thousands displaced.
Responding to Mr Ruto’s claims, the Justice minister said the Eldoret North MP will be undermining the Rome Statute that establishes the ICC and the international justice system if he fails to offer evidence of witness bribery.
“Let me state here that no Kenyan witnesses will get away with it if they were bribed to give evidence, that is perjury and it is criminal. But if you look at it the other way, it amounts to intimidating witnesses if such evidence is not offered,” the Justice minister noted.
Mr Kilonzo advised Mr Ruto to refer his evidence to either the ICC or the High Court judge appointed to preside over the recording of witness statements, Lady Justice Kalpana Rawal.
Alternatively, Mr Ruto can also offer the evidence to the cabinet sub committee handling the ICC process and which is chaired by Internal Security minister Prof George Saitoti, he added.
Mr Kilonzo alongside Attorney General Amos Wako and cabinet ministers James Orengo, Otieno Kajwang, Moses Wetang’ula and Amason Kingi sit on the committee.
Mr Moreno-Ocampo’s office has since maintained that the push to try post-election violence suspects remains on course despite Mr Ruto’s visit to the Hague last week.
The Prosecutor's spokesperson Nicola Fletcher told Nation that Mr Ruto’s visit had not changed anything and investigations were on schedule.
“I... reiterate there is no change to what we have already made public that Mr Moreno-Ocampo intends to present two cases before the end of year”.
“It is almost the end of the year. We are almost there,” she said when asked further about the investigations, but she declined to answer other questions that she said broke the rules on confidentiality.
But other sources familiar with the workings of the court say it is highly unlikely the Kenya case could be brought before February next year because of the nature of the ICC’s calendar.
During his visit to The Hague and on return to the country, Mr Ruto exuded confidence that his sessions with ICC officials were a success as he had been able to tell his side of the story.
Mr Ruto and his lawyers said in media interviews that they had managed to rebut damaging allegations in the Waki Commission and Kenya National Commission on Human Rights reports.
In a rejoinder, the KNCHR defended itself against Mr Ruto's accusations.
Chairperson Florence Jaoko challenged him to present any evidence to the relevant authorities.
Mrs Jaoko said the commission recorded information from 46 senior police officers, 40 members of the Provincial Administration, 33 councillors and 10 then sitting and former MPs.
She said the commission also spoke to those affected and based its report of August 2008 on the statements and evidence from a total 1,102 people.
“The commission did not hire, the commission did not bribe, the commission did not influence or coach the witnesses,” said Mrs Jaoko, who was flanked by vice chairman Hassan Omar and other commissioners.
Mr Ruto also said the commission did not give him a chance to present his side of the story but Mrs Jaoko said the commission invited all MPs and the Eldoret North MP was among those who responded and visited them.
“While the commission in its report did provide a list of alleged perpetrators of post-election violence, it makes no conclusions that the mentioned persons are guilty, nor does it make the conclusion that they were the only ones involved,” she said.