This man Paul Gicheru

Lawyer Paul Gicheru during an interview with The Standard at his office in Nairobi on February 04, 2021. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

For many Kenyans, Paul Gicheru is viewed as a man shrouded in mystery and suspicion and whose true intentions are viewed with suspicion.

This week, the ghosts of the International Criminal Court that have haunted the country for over a decade returned after the trial of Paul Gicheru commenced. 

The Kenyan-based lawyer faces six counts of bribery and corruptly inducing witnesses to interfere with justice in the case against Deputy President William Ruto and journalist Joshua Arap Sang.

He faces a 30-year jail term should he be found guilty of the charges.

This was after the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber A on 15 July 2021, confirmed the charges of offences against the administration of justice brought by the Prosecutor and committed him to trial. 

The ICC accused Gicheru of playing a key role in a scheme to thwart Ruto’s trial. 

Ruto and his co-accused Sang were both charged with instigating ethnic violence after the disputed 2007 election in which more than 1,000 people died and hundreds of thousands were displaced.

However, the ICC judges ruled in 2016 that the two had no case to answer, although they left the door open to possible fresh charges in future, noting that the case had been hampered by political interference and threats against witnesses.

A warrant of arrest by ICC was subsequently issued against Gicheru in 2015 for offences against the administration of justice consisting in corruptly influencing witnesses regarding cases from the situation in Kenya.

In what astounded both his lawyers and government officials, Gicheru who had been a wanted man for years, surrendered to the ICC in 2020.

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.

Gicheru, who is also the chairman of the Export Processing Zone Authority, said he deliberately chose to make his travel to the Hague a secret so as not to trouble anyone.

The lawyer has vehemently denied rumours and accusations that he flew to the Netherlands to try and fix Ruto by reviving the ICC case against the country’s second-in-command.

He said surrendering to the ICC was a personal decision to honour the arrest warrant.

Gicheru remained at the ICC detention centre in The Hague for three months, a stay which he termed as “comfortable” revealing that 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.

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

In an exclusive interview with The Standard soon after returning home last year, Gicheru cut out as a confident and jovial person who was on the path to vindicating himself.

He said that by giving himself in, he had lifted a huge burden off his shoulders and was now a happy man.

“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 said he heard about the "fixing 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 to be at peace,” he said.

Gicheru on Wednesday took to the stand at the start of his 10-day trial at the Hague and denied bribing prosecution witnesses.

The commencement of the trial was dominated by revelations of bribery and threats of witnesses some at gunpoint.

In his parting shot regarding the whole 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.