International Criminal Court headquarters in The Hague.
International Criminal Court headquarters in The Hague.
Image: ICC

The International Criminal Court has established a pre-trial chamber to hear the case against lawyer Paul Gicheru.

The ICC on Tuesday also confirmed that Gicheru voluntarily presented himself to The Hague, bringing a fresh twist to the collapsed case against Deputy President William Ruto.

Gicheru’s case will be heard by a Beninese judge Reine Adélaïde Sophie Alapini-Gansou. In an interview with the Star, the Office of the Prosecutor, headed by Fatou Bensouda, said the lawyer surrendered in The Hague of his own volition.

 
 

“The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court welcomes Paul Gicheru’s voluntary surrender to the authorities of The Netherlands,” the prosecution team told the Star.

The details emerged as Ruto’s men started claiming that Gicheru’s surrender was part of the wider scheme to revive the Deputy President’s ICC case and subsequently scuttle his presidential bid.

Gicheru was slapped with an international arrest warrant in 2015 for allegedly corruptly influencing witnesses to withdraw from the case against Ruto and journalist Joshua arap Sang.

Paul Gicheru
Paul Gicheru/Courtesy

The withdrawal of six of the witnesses, some described as star witnesses, led to the crumbling of the case.

Kapsaret MP Oscar Sudi alleged that the state had earlier sent some officers to Eldoret Central police station to pick up files recorded during the 2007-08 post-election violence.

Eldoret, Ruto’s political backyard, was one of the epicentres of the violence in which 35 people were burnt to death while seeking refuge in KAG Church, Kiambaa, on January 1, 2008.

Sudi also claimed that a former police boss in Eldoret had also been dispatched to The Hague with an unknown motive.

 
 

“They have now sent lawyer Paul Gicheru to surrender himself to the ICC. All these plans are done subsequently with the aim to revive the ICC case against Deputy President William Ruto. This is what that self-declared government mouthpiece Francis Atwoli referred to when he claimed that William Ruto will not be on the ballot come 2022,” the MP claimed.

Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro alleged that the ‘deep state’ is eliminating political competition.

“So the deep state is cornered in real politics and are now resorting to ICC. Bring it on charlatans. Kenya belongs to everyone. Not a few dynasties and their surrogates.”

The change of heart by the reclusive and down-to-earth lawyer has set tongues wagging after five years with an international arrest warrant on his neck.

Gicheru had even secured High Court orders in Kenya that blocked his extradition to The Hague by the Kenyan government.

On Tuesday, a document purporting to be Gicheru’s statement to the ICC and whose authenticity could not be confirmed was widely shared on social media.

The document alleged that Gicheru had reached out to the prosecution witnesses on behalf of the DP.

“Between April 2013 and October 2013, at the request and under the direction of one William Samoei Ruto, I conducted numerous excursions to Eldoret Town and its environs with the objective to seek out, identify and hold discussions with individuals who had been witnesses for the prosecutor’s office,” the document reads.

However, lawyers who represented Sang in the ICC case dismissed Gicheru’s surrender as having no legal implication on his client.

“I can confidently say no amount of effort can resurrect the cases. It’s nothing to worry about,” lawyer Joel Kimutai Bosek told the Star.

Referring to an external expert review report that was commissioned by Bensouda on the conduct of the Kenyan cases, Bosek said the report concluded the cases were bungled during investigations.

“The task force report confirmed what we kept on saying that the cases were not properly investigated,” he stated.

The report, a copy of which the Star has obtained, laid the blame for the collapse of the case on, among other things, the poor leadership of former Prosecutor Louis Moreno Ocampo.

The report describes Ocampo as “autocratic, not open to contrary assessments or viewpoints, too often marginalising those who disagreed with him or reacting angrily and threateningly”.

But the report says without witness tampering, the prosecution had a strong case against Ruto.

“Absent the witness interference campaign, it is very possible the Prosecution would have been successful in the case against Ruto. Even absent this interference, it is much less likely the Prosecution would have prevailed in the other cases,” the report states.

The report also admits that the charges were not backed by tight evidence and blames Ocampo for his overreliance on NGO reports.

“The consequence of all the above was that the prosecutions were burdened with weak cases, less than effective investigations resulting in reliance on only one or a small number of insider witnesses whose evidence could not be independently verified by the OTP,” the report states.

But the report also alleges that the Kenyan government did not support the ICC process and either allowed interference with witnesses inside and outside of Kenya, including surveillance of ICC investigators.

In the Ruto-Sang ICC trial, a record 17 witnesses who had agreed to testify subsequently withdrew their cooperation with the court. 

At some point, Bensouda asked judges to be allowed to use the incriminating testimony of the witnesses, which she said had been compromised.

The trial judges agreed.

However, the Ruto team appealed and the decision was quashed, spelling a death knell to the cases.