Kenyan lawyer Paul Gicheru has dismissed as false claims that he surrendered to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Netherlands in an attempt to fix Deputy President William Ruto in the failed crimes against humanity case.
Gicheru, who surrendered to Dutch authorities on November 2, 2020, despite a High Court order freezing a warrant of arrest against him, returned home on Tuesday after spending about three months in ICC custody.
In an interview with The Standard at his Nairobi office, Gicheru said surrendering to The Hague-based Court was a personal decision to clear his name following a warrant of arrest issued against him in 2015 over claims of interfering with witnesses in the Ruto and radio journalist Joshua Arap Sang case.
According to the prosecution, Gicheru corruptly influenced six witnesses who were set to testify against Ruto by paying bribes and drawing affidavits they used to recant their testimony to the ICC.
The chairman of the Export Processing Zone Authority maintained that he was not influenced by anyone to turn himself in adding that fixing the second in command as alleged was mere speculation that should be ignored.
“Owing to the nature of the matter, I 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.
Ruto and Sang were among six high profile Kenyans, who were charged with instigating violence after a disputed 2007 election that left at least 1,200 people dead and hundreds of thousands displaced. The case was vacated in 2016.
The judges in the ICC case ruled that the DP and his co-accused had no case to answer.
However, they left the door open for possible fresh charges in future if sufficient evidence is tabled, noting that the case had been hampered by political interference and threats against witnesses.
Gicheru’s move to surrender sparked speculations that there was an attempt to revive the Ruto and Sang case as part of efforts to frustrate the DP’s 2022 presidential ambitions.
Gicheru told the local media that he heard about the rumours while in confinement at The Hague.
“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.
On why he decided to fly out of the country “secretly”, the lawyer reiterated that his arrest warrant was a personal matter, hence he didn’t see the need to go “public” about it.
“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,” the lawyer added.
“A warrant of arrest is a personal thing. It affects you as 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.”
Commenting on his experience in detention, Gicheru said life was good and comfortable.
“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 in the menu,” Gicheru said.
He said he met with Uganda’s rebel leader and commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army Dominic Ongwen, who was yesterday convicted of crimes against humanity and war crimes in northern Uganda.
The lawyer also met with Bosco Ntaganda who was jailed for 30 years for war crimes committed in DR Congo.
The Court granted Gicheru conditional release last Friday pending hearing and determination of the case against him.
Gicheru’s co-accused Walter Barasa and Philip Bett are still at large. ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda continues to call on Kenyan authorities to surrender them.