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Kenyan lawyer wanted for witness tampering surrenders to ICC

Kenyan lawyer Paul Gicheru Monday surrendered to the International Criminal Court (ICC) following a 2015 warrant of arrest for crimes of corruptly influencing witnesses in the Hague-based court.

Mr Gicheru’s warrant was issued alongside one against Philip Kipkoech Bett in March 2015, and unsealed on September 2015, kickstarting a long process targeting the two Kenyans.

“Today, November 2, 2020, Mr Paul Gicheru surrendered to the authorities of The Netherlands pursuant to an arrest warrant issued by Pre-Trial Chamber II of the ICC,” the ICC said in a statement Monday morning.

“Mr Gicheru, a lawyer formerly based in Kenya, is suspected of offences against the administration of justice consisting in corruptly influencing witnesses of the court.”

Mr Gicheru and Mr Bett, who is still at large, are both accused of corruptly influencing witnesses in the case against Deputy President William Ruto and radio journalist Joshua Arap Sang.

The chances against Dr Ruto and Mr Sang were vacated on April 5, 2016 “without prejudice to the prosecution bringing a new case in the future, or in a different form, in light of new evidence.

The ICC charges against President Uhuru Kenyatta, on the other hand, were withdrawn in December 2014, while those of former minister Henry Kosgei and ex-police chief Hussein Ali were not confirmed. Former Head of Civil Service Francis Muthaura’s case was dropped in March 2013.

Bribery allegations

When the warrants against Mr Gicheru and Mr Bett were issued in 2015, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said the two are believed to have corruptly influenced six prosecution witnesses.

They allegedly bribed or attempted to bribe six prosecution witnesses, offering them each between Sh500,000 shillings Sh5 million, so they could withdraw as witnesses. These bribery allegations are offences under Article 70 of the Rome Statute.

“I trust that the Kenyan authorities will fulfil their obligations under the Rome Statute to ensure the surrender of all three suspects to the custody of the court,” Ms Bensouda said at the time.

The prosecutor lamented that her investigations and prosecutions in Kenya have been “undermined by a relentless campaign, that has targeted individuals who are perceived to be prosecution witnesses with threats or offers of bribes, to dissuade them from testifying or persuade witnesses to recant their prior testimony”.

Ms Bensouda said potential witnesses have been too scared to come forward.

“Indeed, the Chamber of Judges presiding over the ongoing trial of Messrs Ruto and Sang, recently noted the systematic nature of the interference of several witnesses in that case,” she said.