International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Witness Intimidation and ICC Processes

The Kenyatta trial, already one with far reaching implications for the ICC judicial process, in terms of indicting a sitting head of state, has been hit with further complications as witnesses have withdrawn testimony, withdrawn all together or disappeared. Fatou Bensouda says it is because of “unprecedented intimidation”, resulting from bribes and threats to not testify.

With every dropout, the ability of the case to stand diminishes. The collapse of the trial would also do away with the African Union’s issues with the trial. But this case is not just important in isolation, for the people of Kenya and so forth. It is important for precedent, and for the ability of the ICC to act as a deterrent to sitting heads of state not to commit crimes against humanity. It is no surprise, then, that Bensouda has not given up.

Bensouda’s final throw of the die is to gain access to Kenyatta’s financial records, but it seems that only a Kenyan court has the authority to do so. A clear problem, since few judges would have the courage to actually release his records.

With a court system that is so young, every case has far reaching implications, setting specific precedent and so forth. This, though, has a potential to weaken the powers of the ICC (or at least, prevent them from becoming a deterrent to sitting heads of state) and thus it is vital from this standpoint that the ICC push on and hopefully present Kenyatta’s case.


One response to “Witness Intimidation and ICC Processes

  1. kcarp05 March 14, 2014 at 7:48 pm

    I think this case also questions the truth-telling aspect of the criminal courts in general. In the Gacaca courts as well, there was no shortage of witness bribery and sometimes even murder was used in order to prevent someone’s testimony from reaching the public.

    Stephen Lamony, the senior adviser for the Coalition for the International Criminal Court in New York said, “There should be no difference with these cases. If there is not enough evidence, or the witnesses refuse to testify, there is little a court can do but throw the case out.”

    With the lack of witnesses wanting to testify against Kenyatta I am not sure if a trial at the ICC would do much good for the future of the Kenyan public. As you say, Bensouda does have one more shot at the case if she can get a hold of Kagame’s bank account and use it as evidence. They may want to see Kenyatta tried and prosecuted, but if only the side of Kenyatta and the evidence found by the ICC is used, would that really do much good in the long run for the country?

    Is it better to have an uncovering of truth during a case or is it more important for an alleged perpetrator to be convicted by any means necessary? What is actually better for Kenyan society? If the trial is unable to present accurate depictions of the violence and the victims, are they beneficial? Which leads to the other question of whether the trials in the ICC are for the good of the ‘international justice’ community of the victims of the atrocities?


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