I am now ready to face International Criminal Court judges, says former journalist Walter Barasa

Kenyan Journalist, Walter Barasa, addresses journalists in Nairobi where he claimed that he had been forced to go and lie at the ICC as a witness against Deputy President William Ruto. (PHOTO:EVANS HABIL/STANDARD)

Wanted former journalist Walter Barasa has pulled a surprise on the International Criminal Court, saying he is ready to face the judges but through summons.

Barasa (pictured) who has been fighting off an arrest warrant issued by the court two years ago, has now softened his stance and wants to travel to The Hague to defend himself against allegations of interfering with witnesses.

However, he wants the court to first revoke the arrest warrant and in its place issue summons to appear “with or without conditions”.

Barasa says his willingness to voluntarily take himself to The Hague has been motivated by exhaustion after protracted litigation in Kenya and the agony of living under the constant threat of arrest.

“Pursuant to Rule 117(3) of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence (“Rules”), Pre-Trial Chamber II is hereby respectfully requested to revoke the warrant issued for the arrest of Walter Osapiri Barasa and to issue, in its place, a summons to appear, with or without conditions, pursuant to Article 58(7) of the Rome Statute,” Barasa pleaded through his lawyer, Nick Kaufman.

The sealed warrant of arrest against Barasa was issued on August 2, 2013, by Judge Cuno Tarfusser. It was unsealed on October 2 of that same year, and six days later, Barasa filed a case to stop his arrest and surrender to the ICC.

On January 31, 2014, Barasa got an injunction stopping his arrest. Litigation is ongoing. In the filing, Barasa says his offer should not be interpreted to mean he has waived his right to safeguard his current liberty in Kenya.

He says his alleged crime is not commensurate with the measures the prosecution wants taken against him; pre-trial detention.

“From the language of the arrest warrant, it would appear that the suspect’s alleged criminality comprised the offer but not the actual transfer of money. Put otherwise, the arrest warrant does not allege that the suspect succeeded in perverting the course of justice,” Kaufman says in the application.

Barasa says he wants to make things easy for all. He says from the look of the “slow-grinding wheels of justice at the ICC” and the specific circumstances of the present case, it is clear his potential sentence – if convicted and if custodial – will be far less than the period of time required to complete his trial.

He studiously denies the allegations nevertheless, saying there was never a scheme to interfere with witnesses. He also says there is no longer a sense of urgency in his arrest as it has been overtaken by time and events.

“The prosecution’s investigation and presentation of evidence in the Ruto/Sang trial has now all but terminated and the prior recorded testimony of recalcitrant witnesses has, in the last few days, been admitted into evidence. The suspect cannot thus present an ongoing threat to the Ruto/Sang trial,” Kaufman says.

He says his client does not even know the whereabouts of the principle witnesses.

The lawyer says Barasa’s ongoing litigation against the arrest and surrender process should not be interpreted as an attempt to evade justice.

“The suspect’s resolute and eager attendance at the Kenyan court sessions suggests that he is anything but a flight risk. Indeed, the suspect’s full cooperation with the Kenyan legal authorities is positively indicative of his lack of propensity to flee,” the application reads. Besides, Kaufman argues, Barasa is unable to seek the assistance of an “international network of supporters” like the other Kenyans charged at the court. He says Barasa is not wealthy nor is he in the best of health “having suffered from bouts of malaria and pneumonia in recent years”.

“There is no reason to doubt the suspect’s sincerity in this matter given that failure to comply with such a summons to appear would strengthen the prosecution’s present demand for him to be arrested and detained,” he said. He said Barasa’s travel to the Hague will occur “as soon as the necessary logistical arrangements can be concluded between the republic of Kenya and the registry of the ICC.”