'Bribed' witnesses will not testify in Kenya case

International Criminal Court investigators probing the postelection violence in Kenya will not use testimony from three witnesses who claim they were bribed to provide false evidence against a prominent politician, the court's prosecutor said Wednesday.

Luis Moreno Ocampo also said he is aware of attempts to intimidate or bribe potential witnesses in the case and has informed Kenyan authorities.

Moreno Ocampo's written statement did not name the politician, but it came days after the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights said that Kenya's former higher education minister, William Ruto, should be investigated for allegedly persuading three men in a witness protection program to recant statements they made implicating him in the violence that erupted in late 2007 and 2008 after Kenyan elections.

Ruto was higher education minister until last month. He recently traveled to The Hague in an attempt to clear his name as investigators prepare to indict suspects before the end of the year.

Moreno Ocampo has said the killing of more than 1,000 people along with instances of rape and forced deportation after the election amount to crimes against humanity, and he expects to charge up to six suspects who bear the greatest responsibility.

In April, Moreno Ocampo said he had a list of 20 possible suspects that included leaders of President Mwai Kibaki's Party of National Unity and Prime Minister Raila Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement.

Moreno Ocampo's statement Wednesday appeared to be an attempt to reassure Kenyans that the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal will not be fooled by false witnesses and will deal impartially with the politically charged case.

"The judicial process will show respect for the victims, respect for the law and also respect for the suspects," he said, pledging that those most responsible "will face justice."

Upon returning from his talks with the court in The Hague, Ruto claimed the Kenyan human rights commission bribed witnesses to implicate him. The day after Ruto returned, the three men who had earlier cooperated with the government-funded commission signed sworn statements recanting the allegations they had made against Ruto.

They claimed one of the organization's commissioners, Hassan Omar Hassan, coached and coerced them to name Ruto in their statements.

But Hassan said what the men claimed as bribes are standard payments for the commission's witness protection program. He said Ruto may be trying to derail the ICC process by discrediting potential witnesses.