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ICC to close lawyer Paul Gicheru's file upon death confirmation

The late lawyer Paul Gicheru.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) will close lawyer Paul Gicheru’s file once Kenya confirms his death.

Court spokesperson and head of the Public Affairs Unit Fadi El Abdallah said that The Hague-based court is awaiting confirmation by Kenyan authorities to terminate the trial.

The matter was at the trial Chamber III judge Maria Samba’s desk for a judgment on whether Gicheru is guilty of witness tampering and bribery. Abdallah said ICC has no powers to settle disputes involving dead suspects. At the same time, while speaking to the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Abdallah said the court is in contact with Kenyan authorities over Gicheru’s death.

Following the notification of death, the verdict that was near will abort.

However, if Kenya is slow in confirming Gicheru’s death, Justice Samba might deliver her verdict. Abdallah said time is of the essence in the process. “Confirmation of death is for the national authorities. According to the ICC legal framework, jurisdiction cannot be exercised over a deceased person. Upon receiving confirmation of an accused’s death, the ICC Chamber would then issue a decision to close the case. The time necessary for that purpose depends on the receipt of the confirmation or evidence on his death. The court is in contact with the national authorities in relation to this matter,” he said.

It will be the second time in a month for the ICC to terminate a trial following the death of a suspect. On September 7, 2022, the Pre-trial Chamber I closed the file and withdrew the warrant of arrest against former Lieutenant General of the Libyan army and former head of the Libyan Internal Security Agency, Al-Tuhamy Mohamed Khaled, following his death in August. In the case, Gicheru had urged the court to dismiss the prosecutor’s evidence, terming it as hearsay that could sustain a case against him. In his filings before judge Samba, the Kenyan lawyer argued that the evidence presented before the court does not link him to witness tampering and bribery as claimed by the prosecutor.

According to him, ICC deputy prosecutor James Stewart was relying on witnesses who simply claimed they heard or someone else told them.

“When all the reliably relevant facts are exposed to sunlight and given the space to breathe, and when the evidence is qualitatively assessed, individually and holistically, the inevitable conclusion the Trial Chamber will have to reach is that Gicheru is not criminally responsible for the offenses of corruptly influencing witnesses,” argued Gicheru’s lawyer Michael Karnavas.

Nevertheless, none, he argued, has proof that he was actively involved in tampering or bribing witnesses who were to testify against then Deputy President William Ruto and radio journalist Joshua Sang. Gicheru maintained innocence. “Gicheru categorically rejects a nd contests everything contained within the four corners of the decision on the confirmation of charges,” Karvanas continued.

Gicheru is accused of tampering with witnesses P-0274, P-0341, P-0397, P-0495, P-0516, P-0536, P-0613, and P-0800.