ICC warns journos after Kenya witness 'outed'

2013-09-19 07:48
Deputy President William Ruto. (AFP)

Deputy President William Ruto. (AFP)

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The Hague - The International Criminal Court issued a stark warning on Wednesday that revealing the identity of a protected witness is a crime, after Kenyan media named a witness in Vice President William Ruto's trial.

"Any revelation of the identity of a witness whose identity has been protected... amounts to an offence," presiding judge Chile Eboe-Osuji said during a hearing at the Hague-based court, warning that offenders would be prosecuted.

The warning came after the first prosecution witness in Ruto's high-stakes trial for alleged crimes against humanity committed after disputed 2007 elections was named by Kenyan media and bloggers, prompting warnings the case could collapse.

The judge said he was addressing "everyone inside the courtroom, in the public gallery, in Kenya, and anywhere in the world".

The woman who testified on Tuesday was referred to only as "Witness P0536", while her face was pixellated and voice distorted in order to protect her identity.

But within hours of her harrowing testimony, which was carried live on several Kenyan television stations, viewers began speculating on her real identity on Twitter and other sites.

By Wednesday, scores of posts on Twitter gave her supposed real name, while one Kenyan blogger and the website of a tabloid newspaper even published photographs of the witness. Several comments also denounced the woman as a "liar".

Judge Eboe-Osuji warned "members of the press, bloggers, social media members or participants and their web hosts are particularly called upon to desist from doing anything that would reveal or attempt to reveal the identity of protected witnesses or to engage in secondary dissemination of such wrongful and illegal information".

"Such conducts will be investigated and the culprits will be prosecuted," he said.

The trials of Ruto and his co-accused, former radio DJ Joshua arap Sang, as well as that of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta that is to begin in November, have been mired in accusations of witness intimidation or paying off.

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