By Janet Sankale
Kenyan lawyer Paul Gicheru has been committed to stand trial at the International Criminal Court for offences against the administration of justice.
ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber A has confirmed the charges, saying it had found that there were substantial grounds to believe Gicheru was criminally responsible as a co-perpetrator for the commission of offences against the administration of justice between April 2013 and the closure of the Deputy President William Ruto and Joshua Sang case on September 10, 2015.
The Chamber, composed of Judge Reine Adélaïde Sophie Alapini-Gansou, found that Gicheru and others acted in furtherance of a common plan to undermine the prosecution’s case by preventing witnesses from testifying. These included persons perceived as potential witnesses.
Gicheru and his group identified, located, and contacted the witnesses; offered and/or paid them financial or other benefits; and/or threatened or intimidated them in order to induce them to withdraw as prosecution witnesses, refuse to cooperate or cease cooperating with the prosecution and/or the court, and/or to recant the evidence they had provided to the prosecution.
The lawyer’s case has its origins in the Kenya situation that resulted from the post-election violence of 2007/2008. The election results that ushered then President Mwai Kibaki into his second term were disputed by his main rival, opposition leader Raila Odinga, and sparked violence that engulfed many parts of the country. More than 1,000 people were killed and thousands of others were displaced in the raging ethnic animosity.
In one of the two Kenya cases before the ICC that resulted from the violence, Kibaki’s successor Uhuru Kenyatta and Francis Muthaura, a senior government official, who were facing five counts of crimes against humanity, had the proceedings against them terminated on 13 March 2015, upon the prosecution’s notice of withdrawal of charges due to insufficient evidence.
In the case against Ruto and Sang, the six counts of crimes against humanity were vacated on April 5, 2016 due to witness interference. This means they can be opened afresh in the future.
Gicheru surrendered himself before the ICC on November 2, 2020. The court had issued an arrest warrant against him and Philip Kipkoech Bett on March 10, 2015 over allegations of witness interference in Deputy President Ruto’s case. The lawyer’s first appearance before the court was on November 6, 2020. On December 11, 2020, Pre-Trial Chamber A severed the cases against Gicheru and Bett.
The Chamber’s decision on the confirmation of charges published on Thursday, July 15, 2021, does not establish the guilt of the accused but only serves to determine whether the Prosecutor’s case should proceed to trial.
In the cases concerning offences against the administration of justice, parties cannot appeal a decision on the confirmation of the charges.
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