Kenyan lawyer Paul Gicheru’s fate on his request to be granted conditional release by the International Criminal Court (ICC) pending trial in witness tampering case now lies in the hands of the Kenyan government after the court gave the authorities two weeks to decide whether they would fully cooperate on the matter.
In a ruling delivered on December 31, 2020, Judge Reine Adelaide Sophie Alapine-Gensou said the government must commit its willingness and ability to facilitate Gicheru to attend court sessions at The Hague whenever required following his surrender on November 2, 2020.
“For these reasons, the chamber hereby invites the Republic of Kenya to provide the observations specified in paragraph 16 of the present order by no later than January 20, 2021,” Judge Alapine-Gensou ordered.
The court wants the government to give certain undertakings to “enforce one or more conditions restricting liberty the Chamber could potentially impose.”
These conditions include barring Gicheru from traveling abroad without the explicit agreement of the Chamber, visiting certain places or associate with certain persons as specified by the Pre-Trial Chamber, contacting victims or witnesses directly or indirectly, engaging in certain professional activities, ensuring he resides at a particular address as specified by the Chamber, and honouring summons by an authority or a qualified person designated by the Chamber.
Kenya’s Attorney General Paul Kihara had last year told the court that the Kenyan government wouldn’t cooperate with ICC in Gicheru’s case.
In a letter dated November 24, Kihara said that the lawyer went against “a binding decision” of the High Court dated November 16, 2017, that had frozen the ICC’s arrest warrants against the lawyer and his co-accused Phillip Bett on allegations of witness tampering.
The AG further stated that Gicheru contravened the International Crimes Act that required him to notify the High Court in Nairobi about his intention to turn himself in.
But in the ruling delivered last week, Judge Alapine-Gensou dismissed the AG’s arguments saying, “the Chamber notes that, following Mr Gicheru’s voluntary surrender to the court, he, in addition, communicated to the High Court of Kenya that he consents to be surrendered to the Court in accordance with the domestic legislation of Kenya.”
The judge added, “in view of these developments, the observations by Kenya no longer reflect the current state of affairs in relation to the Interim Release Request.”
Kenya’s failure to cooperate with the court will result in Gicheru being locked up as the trial continues.
“The matter now lies in the hands of the Kenya government. We have our fingers crossed that the government will re-evaluate her position and agree to cooperate. Otherwise, Gicheru risks being detained in the Netherlands until the end of the trial,” Gicheru’s lawyer John Khaminiwa told a local media.
Gicheru is accused of corruptly influencing witnesses leading to the collapse of the crimes against humanity case against Deputy President William Ruto and journalist Joshua Sang.
The two were charged with instigating violence after a disputed 2007 election when 1,200 people lost their lives. The case was vacated in 2016.
The judges in the ICC case ruled that the DP and his co-accused had no case to answer.
However, they left the door open for possible fresh charges in future if sufficient evidence is tabled, noting that the case had been hampered by political interference and threats against witnesses.