A senior National Intelligence Service official on a covert mission in the Netherlands was arrested and deported to Kenya after he attempted to meet an ICC witness last week.
The officer, a Principal Intelligence Officer, had accompanied two other spies on the assignment when he left his colleagues and started tracing the witness based at The Hague.
Sources told the Nation that the witness was being closely monitored by the International Criminal Court security team, and that the Kenyan officer had been placed on security watch immediately after he arrived in that country. It is also suspected that the information on the mission leaked before the officers left Nairobi.
Contacted on Monday, the first secretary in charge of politics and security at the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Nairobi, Ms Stijn Janssen, said that she could not immediately comment on the matter.
â€œI am not able to comment (on) your question straight away (and) will have to look into it. Please allow me to come back to it by tomorrow (Tuesday),â€ she said in response to an email query by the Nation.
The ICC is still hearing the crimes against humanity case against Deputy President William Ruto and journalist Joshua arap Sang.
A similar case against President Uhuru Kenyatta was thrown out for lack of evidence, although Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda accused Kenya of intimidating and bribing witnesses.
The NIS officer was arrested by detectives assisted by officers from the General Intelligence and Security Service of the Netherlands, locally referred to as the Algemene Inlichtingen en Veiligheidsdienst (AIVD) who had also been monitoring the witness.
â€œIt appears that the Dutch security officers had prior information and immediately the officer arrived in Netherlands, they started monitoring him very closely,â€ a senior government official who sought anonymity said.
Following the arrest, top Kenyan and Dutch government officials and senior officials at the Kenyan embassy in Netherlands intervened to secure the officersâ€™ release. He was set free on Thursday and arrived in Nairobi on Friday.
By Monday evening, an official at the Kenyan embassy, representing Ambassador Rose Makenna Muchiri, had not responded to questions sent to him earlier on the incident.
â€œWe will send you a report regarding the questions raised,â€ said an embassy employee on phone.
Since the ICC cases began, detectives for both the government and the court have enhanced their surveillance on the cases and those involved.
In many cases, officers from the NIS are covertly sent in advance to other countries to gather security intelligence, usually prior to visits by a senior government official, or to track people of interest. Though both Kenya and the Netherlands enjoy a cordial diplomatic relationship, it is a fact that even friendly nations spy on one another.
â€œA lot of espionage, especially focusing on national security, takes place even among friendly nations. That there exists mutual spying, not just on enemies but allies too, is an open secret,â€ a security source told the Nation on Monday.
Prior to the NIS officerâ€™s arrest, Dutch spies had been eavesdropping on the officer, some government officials and the targeted witness.
Since the ICC cases started, Dutch authorities have been keeping close tabs on Kenyan visitors to The Hague, including official delegations.
According to reports seen by the Nation, the next big delegation from Kenya is scheduled to attend a trade mission, organised by the Netherlands African Business Council, from June 8 to 11.
The mission is expected to be multisectoral, and, therefore, open to all Kenyan companies.
It was not clear what sections of the law the deported NIS officer contravened, but sources indicated that he was suspected to have planned â€œto interfere with witnessesâ€.
At the ICC, it is an offence against the administration of justice, under Article 70 of the Rome Statute, for anyone to corruptly influence a witness, obstruct or interfere with the attendance or testimony.
It is also an offence to retaliate against a witness for giving testimony in a case before the court. For such conduct, the court may impose a term of imprisonment not exceeding five years or a fine.
In 2013, Judge Eboe-Osuji called on the media, bloggers, social media members or participants and their websites or other online presence â€œto desist from doing anything that would reveal or attempt to reveal the identity of protected witnessesâ€.