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Lawyer facing ICC witness interference case Paul Gicheru dead

Lawyer Paul Gicheru. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

Kenyan lawyer Paul Gicheru is dead. Gicheru has been found dead at his home in Karen, Nairobi, police have confirmed.

According to OB report number 54 filed at Karen Police Station, Gicheru had foam his mouth.

Gicheru, 52, was facing interference charges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands.

After one year and eight months from the date he travelled to the Hague, in July 2022 Gicheru closed his defence before Trial Chamber II Judge Maria Samba, asserting his innocence.

The ICC, in its statement, said following the hearing that lasted two hours, it would hand its verdict within a reasonable time.

“Trial Chamber III will deliberate on the proceedings and, within a reasonable period, pronounce its decision on conviction or acquittal, pursuant to Article 74 of the Rome Statute. The Chamber bases its decision only on the applicable law and on evidence submitted and discussed before it at the trial,” the court statement read.

Gicheru was charged with eight counts of offences against the administration of justice. He denied all eight charges.

In his quest to counter the prosecution’s case, he did not call witnesses. Instead, he challenged the documents presented as evidence in court and the testimonies presented by eight prosecution witnesses.

Police also confirmed that Gicheru's son Allan Njoroge had been hospitalised.

In 2008 Uhuru Kenyatta was a deputy Prime Minister in President Kibaki's government and William Ruto a cabinet Minister in Raila Odinga’s ODM side of the government when both were charged with crimes against humanity stemming from the 2007-2008 post-election violence.

Uhuru, Ruto charged at the ICC

The prosecution, led by Luis Moreno-Ocampo had accused them of bearing the greatest responsibility in the chaos, which led to rape, murders and forcible transfer of populations following the disputed presidential election between Mwai Kibaki of PNU and ODM’s Raila Odinga.

Calls for justice in the wake of post-election killings – more than 1,000 people were killed and thousands displaced – led to efforts by theNational Unity government of President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila to form a local tribunal to try suspected masterminds.

But their efforts were subdued by campaigns from within Parliament to refer the matter to the ICC given that in 2005, Kenya ratified the Rome Statute that set up the international court. Then came sustained calls of “Don’t be vague, let’s go to The Hague.”

The other suspects

MPs failed to pass three requisite bills that would have led to the creation of a local tribunal. By this time, the Justice Phillip Waki-led commission investigating the chaos filed its report which was handed over to former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who was the chief mediator in the post-election crisis.

Come December 15, 2010, Moreno-Ocampo named Uhuru, then a deputy Prime Minister, and five others as suspected masterminds. The “Ocampo six” of Uhuru, Ruto, Civil Service head Francis Muthaura, police boss Hussein Ali, ODM chairman Henry Kosgey and journalist Joshua Sang were indicted by the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber II on March 8, 2011.

Confirmation charges

Confirmation of charges hearing took place from September 21 to October 5, 2011. While three of the poll chaos suspects were variedly let off the hook, the cases against Uhuru, Ruto and Sang continued.

And towards the end of President Kibaki’s term, Uhuru and Ruto faced a suit in Kenyan courts that sought to block them from contesting the presidency on a joint ticket on grounds of integrity and the ICC charges.

However, on February 15, 2013, the courts dismissed the integrity case, paving the way for them to run. They ran on March 4, 2013, and won, their victory further affirmed by the Supreme Court.

On December 5, 2014, Uhuru’s charges were withdrawn due to insufficient evidence, with the case closed unless and until the court submitted new evidence.

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.

No case to answer

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.

 Back to the Uhuru case, Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda accused the Government of refusing to hand over crucial evidence. This happened as MPs initiated a sham process to withdraw Kenya from the Rome Statute. Observers say the ICC cases, in a significant, way helped shape Uhuru’s political journey. Besides the ‘victimhood’ card that came out of it and helped shore up support for the Jubilee alliance, the charges offered the much-needed bond between the ‘dynamic duo’ and their supporters.

 “Uhuru’s supporters considered him a ‘messiah’ of a kind,” said lawyer Odete Oyieko. “Being indicted and the eventual efforts to fight off the charges rewarded Uhuru and Ruto with fanatical following.”

 The ICC became a common enemy, with Ruto at one point saying: “The President said the ICC matter is a personal challenge but we have shown them that it is a personal challenge for 40 million Kenyans.”

Neocolonialism

 The Jubilee duo projected ICC as a tool of the West being used by allies of Raila and Kalonzo Musyoka of the CORD alliance to ‘fix’ them and lock them out of the Kibaki succession matrix. They urged their supporters to reject “neocolonialism”.

 In October 2014 before their jubilant supporters, there was a rare political moment when Uhuru invoked Article 147 (2) of the Constitution to momentarily hand over power to Ruto on the eve of his status conference at The Hague. Each time Uhuru and his deputy returned from The Hague, they would be welcomed by thousands of ecstatic supporters lining up the roads from JKIA to Nairobi’s CBD.

 And by having been the first sitting head of state to appear before the ICC, it helped propel Uhuru’s image internationally, with the Africa Union coming to his defence and accusing the court of being used by foreign powers to humiliate African leaders.