Flashback: When lawyer Paul denied going to the ICC to fix Ruto

Lawyer John Khaminwa arrives at Northwoods Villas in Karen, Nairobi, on Tuesday, September 27, 2022, where lawyer Paul Gicheru died on Monday night. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

In February 2021, lawyer Paul Gicheru told The Standard that he had not travelled to the International Criminal Court at The Hague to fix William Ruto, then the Deputy President of Kenya.

He was dismissing claims that there was a plot to implicate, Ruto, in criminal acts.

The lawyer died in his Karen, Nairobi, house Monday evening under circumstances that might suggest foul play. His son Allan, police sources say, is hospitalised.

In the February interview, Gicheru said the decision to go to Hague involved his family and was in response to an arrest warrant issued by the court.

After, three months of brushing shoulders with the world's most dangerous convicts and indictees, lawyer Paul Gicheru quietly got back to Kenya.

In his own words, it was not all that bad at ICC detention centre.

On November 1, 2020, Gicheru had slipped out of the country, taking himself to the ICC and leaving behind a cloud of confusion, mistrust and suspicion as to what his actual mission in The Netherlands was.

He had been a wanted man for years; wanted over claims of interfering with court witnesses who had recanted their evidence involving President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto after which the cases crumbled for lack of evidence.

Sitting in his office for the first time after three months at the ICC detention centre in The Hague, Gicheru, in a jovial mood like a man who has had a burden lifted off his shoulders, said he was a happy man.

From the setting of his magnificent office, Gicheru explained his lonely sojourn to The Hague despite having a court order slamming brakes on the ICC.

He said life at the detention centre was good and comfortable as he was given good treatment by both the Netherlands government and the court and had access to what he wanted.

"I was given my own room at the detention centre. The rooms are good, with a television and a personal computer connected to the internet. I could also eat whatever I wanted but could buy food at times if what I wanted was not on the menu," Gicheru said.

While not attending court, Gicheru said they were allowed to roam freely within the detention centre and meet other detainees. He said he met with Uganda's rebel leader and commander of the Lord's Resistance Army Dominic Ongwen.

Ongwen would be convicted for crimes against humanity and war crimes in northern Uganda.

Gicheru also met with Bosco Ntaganda who was jailed for 30 years for war crimes committed in DR Congo.

Gicheru said detainees were also allowed limited access to phones, and families allowed to visit them anytime they wished without restrictions.

He said surrendering to the ICC was a personal decision to honour a warrant of arrest issued against him by the court in 2015 over claims of interfering with witnesses and not to fix anyone.

"Owing to the nature of the matter, it was entirely a voluntary and personal decision in strict and exclusive consultation with my family without the participation of any third party. Any speculation on any third party involvement was entirely wrong and should be ignored," Gicheru said.

Gicheru was wanted by the ICC to answer allegations of corruptly influencing witnesses who had been lined to testify against Ruto and radio journalist Joshua Arap Sang in the crimes against humanity charges.

The court had issued the warrant of arrest against Gicheru alongside Philip Kipkoech Bett in March 2015 and unsealed them in September 2015 but they did not surrender after the warrants were suspended.

At the time of issuing the warrants, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda claimed the two had attempted to bribe six prosecution witnesses to withdraw their statements against Dr Ruto and Sang.

Although the case against Ruto and Sang was subsequently withdrawn in April 2016, ICC judges had indicated that they would still allow the prosecution to bring a new case against the two in future if new evidence was discovered.

It is the rider left by the judges while discharging Ruto and Sang that brought about the speculation that after Gicheru surrendered to the ICC, the plan was to revive the case against the deputy president.

Gicheru said he heard about the rumours while in confinement at The Hague, which he said were all lies as he did not surrender to implicate the DP.

"I did not go to ICC to fix anyone. It was a personal decision. My conscience could not be at peace forever knowing there was a warrant from ICC hanging over my head. I wanted to clear this thing to enable me be at peace," he said.

Gicheru's lawyers and government officials said they were not aware of his surrender to ICC given a High Court order that suspended the warrant or arrest against him was still in force.

But Gicheru, who was also the chairman of the Export Processing Zone Authority, said he deliberately chose to make his travel a secret so as not to trouble anyone, "since the warrant of arrest against me as an individual."

He said: "It reaches a point where one has to make a decision. I chose to make the decision to go to ICC purely on personal terms."

.Added Gicheru: "A warrant of arrest is a personal thing. It affects you as an individual and while I left the country to honour the warrant, I am now back without the burden on my shoulder and I have since resumed my public, professional and personal duties."

He however said he would not comment on the case facing him since it was a condition given by the ICC judges that he should not comment about it in public or anywhere else.

"In line with the court's decision and the law on sub-judice, I wish to inform everyone that I will not be available for any comments or interviews relating to the matter pending in court or any other matter touching on the court generally," Gicheru said.

With the ICC experience, Gicheru's message to Kenyans was that they should endeavour to keep peace and harmony and live together as brothers and sisters irrespective of their differences.

He added that with the warrant of arrest over his head now behind him, his mission was to resume his personal and professional duties from where he left before going to The Hague on November 1, 2021.

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