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Viewing cable 10NAIROBI11, Kenya: Inadequate Witness Protection Poses Painful Dilemma

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
10NAIROBI11 2010-01-05 11:11 2011-02-27 23:11 SECRET Embassy Nairobi
Appears in these articles:
http://www.the-star.co.ke/
VZCZCXRO0838
OO RUEHROV
DE RUEHNR #0011/01 0051141
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O R 051140Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY NAIROBI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0322
INFO IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA
RHMFISS/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
RUZEFAA/CDR USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 NAIROBI 000011 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 2020/01/05 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM ASEC KCRM KJUS UG KE
SUBJECT: Kenya: Inadequate Witness Protection Poses Painful Dilemma 
 
CLASSIFIED BY: Mitchell Benedict, Political Counselor, DOS, POL; 
REASON: 1.4(B), (D) 
 
1.      (U) This is an action request. Please see para 17. 
 
 
 
2.      (S) Summary: In recent months, post has noted an increased 
level of intimidation against witnesses to Kenya's late 2007-early 
2008 post-election violence. This trend is consistent with security 
threats against other human rights defenders (HRDs) whose 
activities conflict with vested political interests. The government 
of Kenya (GOK) passed legislation establishing a witness protection 
program in 2006 but has yet to establish a functional program. Most 
experts are concerned that, even if implemented, the program will 
have critical vulnerabilities and be subject to political 
interference. Amendments have been proposed to the legislation to 
attempt to address these concerns. In 2007, civil society groups 
formed an ad hoc network to protect HRDs, but awareness and 
capacity are limited and the network has likely been penetrated by 
the Kenyan intelligence service. Our ability to assist HRDs is 
limited in both scope and duration, and has recently proved to be 
inadequate to fully support recent applicants. The number of 
non-HRD witnesses who will require long-term protection is likely 
to increase significantly, especially if the International Criminal 
Court (ICC) moves ahead with indictments against senior political 
leaders for their roles in the post-election violence. Robust 
action by Kenya's Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission 
(TJRC), or much less likely Kenya's courts, could also act as 
triggers for threats against witnesses. 
 
 
 
3.      (S) Summary, continued: Inadequate witness and HRD 
protection mechanisms within the GOK and civil society -- and 
insufficient support for witness protection by the international 
community -- are major impediments to the prosecution of organizers 
of post-election violence, whether at the ICC or (much less likely) 
in Kenyan courts. A continued lack of witness protection will also 
inhibit the work of the TJRC. Therefore, we request additional 
resources (via the Human Rights and Democracy Fund or other 
appropriate mechanism) to support civil society in developing 
alternative witness protection/HRD protection networks. We also 
request that the Department examine the parameters of the existing 
Human Rights Defenders' Fund to determine whether additional 
resources can be made available, especially for witnesses or HRDs 
who require longer-term protection. To the extent legally possible 
we should be in touch with the ICC on this issue, and we should 
urge strong support by the EU and key member states for witness 
protection.  End summary. 
 
 
 
Increasing Threats and Extrajudicial Killings 
 
 
 
4.      (S) Kenya's government, political leaders, and criminal 
gangs have historically utilized intimidation and varying degrees 
of violence against opponents. During the post-election crisis 
period in early 2008, Kenya experienced extensive violence, 
returning to relative calm after the signing of the National Accord 
in February 2008. However, since the March 2009 killing of two 
directors of the Oscar Foundation (a local NGO which documented and 
publicized cases of extrajudicial killings by GOK security forces) 
by suspected members of a police death squad, we have noted a 
steady rise in the number of individuals threatened or killed for 
apparent political reasons. A number of witnesses who testified 
before the Commission to Investigate Post-Election Violence, also 
known as the Waki Commission, have already been threatened. Two 
classes of post-election violence witnesses are most vulnerable: 
ethnic Kalenjin witnesses in Rift Valley province, and ethnic 
Kikuyu witnesses to post-election violence in Nairobi and Central 
province, especially those with links to the Mungiki movement. 
However, due to the widespread and complex nature of the 
post-election violence, witnesses can come from all ethnic groups 
and walks of life, and unlike HRDs, are not part of a civil society 
network. 
 
 
 
5.      (S) Politically-motivated intimidation and violence in 
Kenya spans a broad spectrum of perpetrators and victims. After the 
Oscar Foundation murders, post helped four witnesses to relocate to 
Uganda after they were allegedly threatened by the police. Members 
of Parliament and their staff who have sought to advance 
legislation to establish a local tribunal to try suspects 
implicated in post-election violence have received death threats. 
 
NAIROBI 00000011  002 OF 004 
 
 
One parliamentarian's aide received a text message stating "u 
better stop associating with him...do you want we start counting 
your days also" two days before three suspects attempted to kidnap 
the aide. Since 2007, security forces have often used lethal and 
excessive force when apprehending suspected members of the Mungiki, 
an ethnic Kikuyu movement linked to various criminal activities, 
especially in Nairobi and Central province. In November 2009, 
Mungiki spokesman Njuguna Gitau was killed on a busy Nairobi street 
by suspects alleged to be undercover police officers. At the time 
of his death, Gitau was working to register a political party to 
represent Mungiki and youth interests.  According to one source, 
Gitau may have been the lynchpin to channel funding from Uhuru 
Kenyatta to the Mungiki during the post-election violence. 
 
 
 
6.      (S) Of particular concern for Kenya's reform process are 
increasing threats to witnesses of the post-election violence. As 
the ICC prepares for potential prosecution of key organizers of the 
violence, multiple sources indicate that implicated political 
leaders, notably cabinet ministers William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta, 
are directing a campaign of intimidation against potential 
witnesses. The ICC has not yet launched a formal investigation into 
crimes committed during the post-election violence, but has already 
expressed concern about threats to witnesses. ICC representatives 
have met with GOK officials regarding lack of progress in 
establishing its national witness protection program. The ICC does 
not have its own witness protection program, but rather must rely 
on national programs to keep witnesses safe. Some NGOs have noted a 
clear connection between visits by Chief Prosecutor Moreno Ocampo 
and other ICC officials and subsequent intensifying pressure on 
witnesses. Kenya's TJRC has also expressed the desire to set up an 
independent witness protection unit, but has not taken any action 
to date and is itself suffering from a lack of agreement about its 
mandate (i.e. whether to focus on truth-finding, justice-seeking, 
or promotion of reconciliation). An additional update on the TJRC 
will be reported septel. 
 
 
 
GOK Witness Protection Remains in Limbo 
 
 
 
7.      (S) Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs Mutula 
Kilonzo has publicly acknowledged receiving "bundles" of letters 
from post-election violence witnesses reporting intimidation, many 
of whom testified before the Waki Commission, and who have 
therefore already attracted unwelcome attention from post-election 
violence inciters and organizers.  While Kilonzo notes that threats 
will complicate any prosecution of post-election violence suspects, 
he continues to argue that he is powerless to protect them and 
accuses Attorney General Amos Wako, who is responsible for 
oversight of the witness protection program, of failing to fulfill 
his duties. (Note: Wako was recently subjected to 212f visa 
sanctions for his role in several high-level corruption cases, and 
does not appear to feel any sense of urgency with regard to his 
witness protection mandate. Moreover, any witness protection 
program carried out under Wako would not be credible.  Kilonzo's 
suggestion that he has no ability to realize implementation of the 
witness protection program is disingenuous at best. End note.) 
 
 
 
8.      (S) Since the Witness Protection Act was passed in 2006, 
the Witness Protection Unit (WPU) housed within the Attorney 
General's office has been officially "launched" at least four 
times, most recently in October 2009. The WPU, headed by prosecutor 
Alice Ondiyeki, now has staff and furnished office space, but has 
yet to accept a single witness for protection. To date, the current 
and former DOJ Resident Legal Advisors have provided technical 
assistance with drafting the Act and numerous trainings to WPU 
staff, including the consultative visit of Heather Cartwright, a 
nationally-respected expert on witness protection. Judge Ann 
Williams, a judge from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeal, has 
also provided training to prosecutors staffing the WPU. Currently, 
South African expert Gerhard van Rooyn is embedded within the WPU 
and is providing technical assistance. His position is funded by 
the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). 
 
 
 
9.      (S) Under the Witness Protection Act, the WPU is under the 
authority of the Attorney General (AG). Security is provided by 
members of the Kenya Police Service, and the AG has to give 
 
NAIROBI 00000011  003 OF 004 
 
 
approval for anyone to enter the program, although in practice he 
has devolved authority to select participants to Ondiyeki as head 
of the unit. The WPU is funded as a line item in the AG's budget, 
which is controlled by the Ministry of Justice. 
 
 
 
10.  (S) In a recent briefing to members of diplomatic missions in 
Nairobi, van Rooyn laid out his vision for Kenya's witness 
protection program. Van Rooyn's fundamental concern is that the WPU 
as it currently exists is too closely linked to the AG and security 
forces and therefore will not be able to provide politically 
neutral protection, especially to witnesses who could implicate 
senior government officials in serious crimes. Van Rooyn has 
drafted proposed amendments to the Witness Protection Act to 
overcome what he sees as fatal flaws in the existing legislation. 
The key elements of the amendment make the WPU independent of the 
Attorney General (and, by extension, the Ministry of Justice) and 
create an autonomous, dedicated police unit for witness security 
with the authority to carry weapons. Van Rooyn also cited the need 
for vetting and revetting of WPU staff, include polygraphing, to 
ensure autonomy and confidentiality. 
 
 
 
11.  (S) There are, however, two concerns with this approach: one 
is that under the GOK budgetary system, a completely independent 
body can be starved for finances (and therefore rendered impotent) 
unless it has a budget line and devolved authority over how to 
spend its finances. As van Rooyn pointed out, the requisite 
financial support demands concurrent political will to make witness 
protection work. He added that, given the length of time many 
witnesses might need to spend in the program, the government would 
need to fund witness and unit operating expenses for at least three 
years. Other such bodies, like the Office of the Ombudsman, have 
effectively been prevented from carrying out their mandate through 
successive budget cuts. The second concern is that the Police 
Commissioner and other senior law enforcement officials are likely 
to oppose the independent police unit, which could presumably be 
compromised by corruption or infiltrated by intelligence officials 
in the same way that existing police units could be compromised. 
 
 
 
12.  (S) An additional obstacle is that the AG and WPU staff now 
say they cannot admit anyone into the program or otherwise move 
forward with implementation until the amendment is either passed or 
rejected by Parliament, thus building in an automatic additional 
delay of several months. In November, the AG announced his 
intention to introduce the amendment to the cabinet and thence to 
Parliament, but it had not moved forward by the time Parliament 
adjourned on December 10. 
 
 
 
Civil Society: Limited Capacity, Likely Compromised 
 
 
 
 
 
13.  (S) In November 2007, Kenya human rights NGOs established a 
national human rights' defenders network, supported by and in 
partnership with post and other like-minded missions. The HRD 
network, led by the NGO Kenya Human Rights Commission, has set up a 
network of referral points and safe houses. In 2009, the network 
provided protection to 51 at-risk individuals. The HRD network has 
not attempted to provide protection for non-HRD witnesses. 
 
 
 
14.  (S) An assessment of Kenya's HRD network conducted by the East 
and Horn of Africa HRD Project in October 2009 concluded that the 
network is hampered by a lack of capacity and funding, is largely 
unknown outside civil society circles, and has poor communication 
security procedures. Organizations active with the HRD network 
report that they have been monitored and/or threatened by agents of 
the Kenyan intelligence service. As a result, member organizations 
often reject applicants whose bona fides are unknown to them and do 
not widely publicize the existence of the network. Extensive use of 
cell phones by the HRD network and individuals under protection 
further compromises their safety as calls can be monitored by the 
GOK. 
 
NAIROBI 00000011  004 OF 004 
 
 
Embassy Resources Inadequate 
 
 
 
15.  (S) Post's primary instrument for assisting at-risk HRDs is 
the Human Rights Defenders Fund, administered by Freedom House in 
coordination with the Bureau of Democracy Rights and Labor (DRL). 
While the Fund provides rapidly deployable funding to assist HRDs 
in-country or in the initial stages of relocation abroad, the 
relatively small amounts and one-off nature of the grants limit the 
utility of the Fund for HRDs with long-term protection needs. For 
example, post used the Fund to assist four witnesses to the Oscar 
Foundation murders to relocate to Uganda and apply for refugee 
status. Each witness received funding adequate for three months of 
living expenses. However, the government of Uganda took eight 
months to process their applications for refugee status (possibly 
due in part to domestic political sensitivities), during which time 
the witnesses were evicted from their housing and had no legal 
means of employment. All four ultimately returned to Kenya, where 
they remain at risk. Post's assistance to HRDs is also subject to 
surveillance. The Poloff responsible for the program has received 
two anonymous phone calls in which email correspondence to HRDs was 
cited and the officer was warned against continued support to the 
individuals. 
 
 
 
Action Requests 
 
 
 
16.  (S) An apolitical, confidential state-run witness protection 
program is ultimately the best long-term solution for Kenya. 
However, this is not a viable possibility in the short to medium 
term.  We are concerned that lives are at risk in the interim. Any 
decisive forward action by the ICC will substantially increase 
already significant pressure on witnesses.  The TJRC will prove 
ineffective, whether the desired end-state is truth, justice, or 
reconciliation, unless it can create a safe environment for 
witnesses and victims to come forward. 
 
 
 
17.  (S) First, in order to formulate effective support for witness 
protection in Kenya, we need to know more about the ICC's plans and 
what it is prepared to do in this arena. We request the Department 
to consider contacts with ICC interlocutors via the Department, 
Embassy Nairobi and The Hague about their game plan for witness 
protection, including the number and type of witnesses they would 
likely present, which witnesses would need protection and for how 
long, and whether there are high-priority witnesses with "smoking 
gun" evidence or whether the cases will rest on circumstantial 
evidence from many witnesses. Second, we request that the 
Department examine the parameters of the existing Human Rights 
Defenders' Fund to determine whether additional resources can be 
made available, especially for witnesses or HRDs who require 
longer-term protection, and explore other mechanisms as well. 
Third, we are discussing these issues with the EU and key member 
state colleagues in Nairobi (especially the British, French, Dutch, 
and Nordics), and suggest the Department consider appropriate 
demarches. 
RANNEBERGER