ICC orders arrest of three Kenyans for swaying witnesses

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has unsealed arrest warrants against two Kenyans accused of corruptly influencing prosecution witnesses.

The warrants were initially issued on March 10, 2015, against the two for preventing administration of justice by corruptly influencing prosecution witnesses.

Thursday, Pre-Trial Chamber II found that there are reasonable grounds to believe that Philip Kipkoech Bett, also known as "Kipseng'erya", and Paul Gicheru, a lawyer based in Kenya, were criminally responsible for offences against the administration of justice.

And the ICC Thursday also declined to lift a warrant of arrest it issued against former journalist Walter Barasa in 2013.

The Trial Chamber II, in its decision Thursday, ruled that if Barasa voluntarily presented himself before that court, he would have to be detained until he applies for a temporally release.

Barasa was charged with several offences against the administration of justice, including corruptly influencing or attempting to corruptly influence ICC witnesses. But he argued that a summons to appear ought to have been issued instead.

"Following his surrender and first appearance, Walter Osapiri Barasa will have the right to apply for interim release. Also should he genuinely wish to appear before the court as he maintains, Walter Osapiri Barasa, who is not currently in detention in  Kenya may travel  to the seat of the court to voluntarily appear. In accordance with the warrant of arrest issued against him, he  will then be detained unless and until any interim release is granted," the ruling by Judges Cuno Tarfusse, Marc Perrin de Brichambaut and Chang-ho Chung read  in part

The former journalist, through his lawyer Nicholas Kaufman, had asked the court to replace the warrant with summons as the detention would have him behind bars longer than any possible sentence in case he would get convicted.

In its decision of March 10, 2015, the Chamber said ICC should exercise its jurisdiction on the case, against the two, considering that based on the available information before the Chamber, an effective national prosecution was unlikely to take place in the particular circumstances of the present case.

The Pre-Trial Chamber II decided Thursday to make the arrest warrant public on the basis of the information provided by the prosecutor.

Gicheru and Bett were arrested on July 30, 2015, by the Kenyan police in Nairobi in execution of the ICC's request for arrest and surrender and were presented before a Judge of the High Court of Kenya.

Since the arrest has taken place and the suspects were made aware of the ICC's warrant of arrest, the chamber deems the confidentiality of the document as unnecessary.