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"When the scales of justice topple, justice is denied"
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"When the scales of justice topple, justice is denied"

Judith Akoth picThe disappearance of an important witness has raised important questions about the country’s committment to pursuing justice, writes Judith Akoth, 23, a Correspondent from Kisumu in Kenya.

The disappearance of International Criminal Court ‘witness’ Meshack Yebei has raised many questions about the level of commitment by the Kenyan Government to provide witness protection as a State Party to the Rome Statute.

This does not come as a shock because earlier on, in December 2014, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda complained about elimination of witnesses during the withdrawal of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s case. In a statement during the announcement, the Prosecutor claimed this and witness bribery were some of the contributing factors that lead to the withdrawal of the case and others concerning the Kenyan post-election violence.

The government, however, through its Attorney General Prof. Githu Muigai, distanced itself from the accusation. The Attorney general claimed neither the Prosecution nor the Defence or any other organ of the court had made the Government of Kenya aware that the Kenyan citizen was a witness for any party.

He further added,”I would like to appeal to both the Prosecution and Defence to utilize the Witness Protection Unit created under Kenyan law to ensure the safety of the witness. The Government of Kenya will continue to assist the Court, Prosecution and Defence in ensuring the protection of all witnesses brought to its attention and shall act expeditiously.”

Similarly, the court also has its fair share of the blame surrounding witness protection. Many of the witnesses withdrew from the cases for fear of their safety and that of their families, and claim they spent months living in asylum while waiting for communication from the court – which never came. Their withdrawals have caused the court major setbacks. Since the case began, the prosecutor has not been able to successfully prosecute any of the suspects, hence confirming the above allegations. The court defended itself, saying amongst other reasons apart from witness withdrawal, the Kenyan government has not been fully co-operative.

Just who is fooling whom?

Yebei’s case revealed the many threats that exposed witnesses are subjected to without protection from the relevant party.

Mr Yebei went missing on the 28th of December. It is claimed on the fateful day, Yebei had taken his first born son to the hospital. He left to buy him a bottle of water and failed to return. A week later the police were informed by the members of the public about a floating body on River Yala in Kipsigis Nandi County. The body was taken to Kapsabet County Referral Mortuary and was identified by the family a week later.

Later on another family came up claiming the body belonged to their lost son Yusuf Hussein, who disappeared on the on the 25th of December. So just where is Meshack Yebei?

Well, it was just shameful to watch the tussle between the two families while we have advanced technology to identify John Doe in the country. However, the most saddening issue is that a father, a productive member of the society, someone who would have helped to bring justice to either the victims of the crimes or the accused, just vanished from the face of the earth!

During the 2007 post election violence, many lives were lost and many others displaced. There are those who lost their property and the economy suffered greatly. Kenyans did manage to pick up their broken pieces and reconciled, but one thing is for sure, we all want justice for the crimes against humanity committed during the period. So we chose the International Criminal Court, because we felt they had the resources and we believed they would be objective enough to bring the perpetrators to justice. Unfortunately, it has been for four years and we still await justice in case that is seemingly turning cold.

Lack of support from the Kenyan government can also be felt through their constant attempts to withdraw from the Roma Statute. It’s a shame.

Witnesses normally hold key information to solving crimes and thus they should be protected jealously. However if the withdrawal factors can be dealt with, then we deny justice to those who were affected.

Some need to review their thoughts and think deeply on their individual roles in sabotaging the case, or else someday roles may change. One could claim the victim’s seat in the quest to justice, and the inevitable could await when justice will be denied.

photo credit: ‘The Law’ via photopin (license)
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About me:

I am a confident and articulate graduate who enjoys engagement in journalism clubs and associations.  Young yet mature; I am interested in inculcating my skills in conflict management in regards to politics, ethnic and religious inspired conflicts.

I believe our future generations have a right to live in a peaceful environment that allows for holistic development. Currently I am a blogger and a volunteer at Community Based Organisations.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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