In Hague, Netherlands, the International Criminal Court today called its first witness to the stand in the case against Kenyan leaders. Known only as Witness 536 for reasons of anonymity, she is also the first person to ever testify against a government leader who is still in office. The country’s deputy president William Ruto, one of the leaders in question, has been accused of various crimes against humanity which allegedly occurred in 2007, when thousands were killed in a violent uprising following elections in the country. The president of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, has also been charged and will face the court in November.
On Tuesday, the unnamed witness gave testimony about events that took place on Jan 1 of 2008, when a church in Kiambaa was attacked by thousands of men carrying “machetes and axes and sticks.” She said the victims were women and children trying to take shelter because of violence that erupted following the elections. The group of attackers set fire to the church, taking the lives of 35 people.
“Some of them were wearing leaves,” she said, while “others had pieces of cloth on their faces.”
Witness 536’s testimony on Tuesday was pivotal in advancing the case. The LA Times reports that more than four witnesses have already refused to testify, pulling themselves out of the trial completely. Fatou Bensouda, a prosecutor in the case, has talked about an investigation into cases of bribery toward witnesses to get them to keep quiet. If the accusation is true, those individuals could be facing very strong repercussions for their actions.
Written by Chris Bacavis