An American lawyer representing a Kenyan at the International Criminal Court (ICC) is racing against time to file responses.

Michael Karnavas (pictured) who was appointed on Wednesday to represent lawyer Paul Waweru Gicheru has strict timelines for filing of responses with the issue of Pre-Trial Chamber A’s competence to hear the case against his client being the first on the agenda.

He is to counter the Office of Public Counsel for the Defence (OPCD)’s application challenging the court’s competence by November 27.

Gicheru is accused together with another Kenyan, Philip Kipkoech Bett, of interfering with the witnesses in the post-election violence cases.

In Karnavas' in-tray is also written submissions by the prosecution led by Fatou Bensouda on splitting of the lawyer’s case from Bett, and procedural matters pertaining to pre-confirmation proceedings.

The court had ordered the prosecution to file observations on the possibility of splitting the cases by November 20 and November 26 respectively when the Kenyan lawyer made his first appearance before the court on November 6.

Judge Reine Adelaïde Sophie Alapini-Gansou of Pre-Trial Chamber II said this should be done by December 4.

In her ruling delivered on November 20, the judge said the court’s regulations give her chamber powers to extend or reduce a time limit if good cause is shown, and where appropriate, after having given the participants an opportunity to be heard.

“The chamber considers that the recent appointment of Mr Karnavas and the number of pending filings also require a variation of these time limits,” the judge said.

OPCD’s Principal Counsel Xavier-Jean Keita, who was allowed to represent and protect Bett’s rights, is challenging Pre-Trial Chamber A’s competence on claims that Pre-Trial Division’s President Tomoko Akane erred in appointing one judge to hear the case.

Keita said the rule used for the appointment of Justice Alapini-Gansou instead of three to handle the case against Gicheru and Bett does not exist.

He stated that Rule 165 was amended on February 29, 2016 by the plenary of judges pursuant to the Rome Statute’s Article 51(3).

Keita said even if rule 165 was valid, it remains inapplicable in the case against Gicheru and Bett because it was amended only after the issuance of warrants of arrest against them, thus barred by the principle of non-retroactivity. []