Kenyan activists backing ICC under attack

Activists viewed as supporting international crimes against humanity trials of Kenya's leaders are facing growing attacks, Human Rights Watch said Friday, calling on the government to stem such intimidation.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto face trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity for their alleged roles in Kenya's 2007-2008 post-election violence.

"During recent months, there have been growing reports of harassment, attacks, and threats toward human rights activists and people thought to be witnesses for the prosecution in the ICC cases," HRW said, calling the attacks "part of an overall climate of hostility in Kenya toward the ICC process".

The trial of Ruto, along with radio boss Joshua Arap Sang, began in The Hague-based ICC on September 10.

Kenyatta's trial is set to start on November 12.

"The government should make clear that it won't tolerate intimidation and violence against those who speak their minds," the New York-based rights group added in a statement.

On October 2, the ICC unsealed an arrest warrant against a Kenyan journalist, Walter Barasa, on witness tampering charges.

Barasa is alleged to be acting on the basis of a "criminal scheme devised by a circle of officials within the Kenyan administration," according to an ICC statement.

Police last month said a gang had threatened to torch the home of prominent activist Maina Kiai, the former head of the state-funded Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, after false reports on blogs claimed he had testified at the ICC against Kenyatta.

Websites have also "outed" purported ICC witnesses, in one case prompting death threats against a person falsely said to be witness.

Unconnected to the ICC, two human rights activists have been killed in the past two months by unknown attackers, HRW added.