Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court in The Hague have suffered a further setback to their case against Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, after two more witnesses withdrew their testimony over security concerns.
The latest withdrawal follows that of three other witnesses who gave evidence at the case’s confirmation of charges stage in September and October 2011.
Kenyatta is facing charges of crimes against humanity for orchestrating the ethnic violence that followed the disputed result of Kenya’s presidential election in December 2007.
Kenya’s deputy president, William Ruto, and former broadcast journalist, Joshua Arap Sang, are also due to go on trial in a separate case.
More than 1,100 people were killed and around 650,000 others lost their homes in the violence.
Kenyatta’s trial is set to start on November 12. He is charged with murder, rape, persecution and forcible population transfer.
According to a written filing submitted by prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on July 16, one of the witnesses – known as Witness 5 – believes he is facing “insurmountable security risks” and has informed prosecutors that he is no longer willing to give evidence in the case.
The witness told Bensouda’s office that he believed there had been efforts to find out where he was now residing and the risks to his safety had “become too great for him to bear”.
The prosecutor also informed judges that a second witness – Witness 426 – had raised concerns over security as well.
Despite efforts by the prosecution to protect him, the witness said that he was not willing to give evidence against Kenyatta.
“The prosecution has held discussions with Witness 426 to determine whether any measures could be taken to mitigate his concerns and secure his attendance at trial,” Bensouda’s filing read.
“These talks were unsuccessful and Witness 426 maintained that he was not willing to testify.”