By Vincent Mabatuk
Nakuru, Kenya: The Witness Protection Agency has noted that the Government has put in place proper mechanism to ensure witnesses to the 2007/2008 post-election violence cases are well protected.
Speaking in Nakuru, the Agency’s Director Alice Ondieki reiterated the Government’s position to protect the witnesses and their relatives and urged those feeling threatened to report to the Agency or other state security organs.
The assurance comes four months to the start of the hearing of criminal case facing Deputy President William Ruto and Journalist Joshua Sang on crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Asked on the capacity to effectively discharge its mandate, Ondieki said the protection programme is now fully operational and has so far received over 80 applications.
“Witnesses should not be afraid because the Agency is independent and fully operational. All those feeling threatened should come to us and we assure them of their security,” she said.
The Agency, established in 2009 by an Amendment to the 2006 Witness Protection Act, is mandated to maintain a witness protection programme. It is also responsible for determining the criteria for admission and removal of witnesses from the programme, as well as determines the type of protection measures to be applied.
The director assured the nation and the international community that witnesses who have been threatened and intimidated will be protected by all means in order to enable them appear before The Hague-based court to testify without fear or intimidation.
“Through the witness protection program, the Government acknowledges the need for security to witnesses as a basic human right and thereby strengthening the criminal justice system,” she said.
The Agency has faced numerous challenges since its launch in 2011, with lack of adequate funding topping the list.
Although they had requested for Sh450 million, the agency only received Sh196 million last year.
Ondieki said being a new concept in the country, getting qualified staff has been a challenge and that the Agency still depends on the resource allocated to them by the National treasury.
She said the Agency has already appeared before Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs where they expressed the need to be allocated the required amount of money.
She was speaking in Nakuru yesterday during a two-day workshop for prison officers, prosecutors and police investigators from Central and South Rift region.