The ICC has issued more sealed arrest warrants against Kenyans – this time four of them, three of whom sources say are close to Deputy President William Ruto.
The latest warrants are for alleged witness interference.
This brings to seven the number of Kenyans wanted by Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda for witness tampering. If convicted, they could spend up to five years in jail.
The latest details emerged as Kenya’s delegation to the Assembly of States Parties at The Hague yesterday struggled to block the use of recanted testimony in the case against the DP and journalist Joshua arap Sang.
ICC Outreach Coordinator for Kenya and Uganda Maria Kamara told the Star she is unaware of any new warrants.
“You can only know about warrants if they are unsealed. If they are not public, I wouldn’t know,” she said.
Sealed warrants mean that the judges have granted a request by the Office of the Prosecutor, but the details are not immediately made public.
Investigations by the Star indicate that the sealed warrants were issued over an alleged multi-million-shilling bribery scheme to influence the withdrawal of prosecution witnesses in the case.
Reliable sources indicated two of the suspects Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda wants charged are Ruto’s aides while the third is his close business associate.
Details of the fourth suspect remain scant.
“The Chamber notes the element of systematicity of the interference of several witnesses in this case, which gives rise to the impression of an attempt to methodically target witnesses of this case in order to hamper the proceedings,” the ICC judges ruled in August as they admitted prior recorded testimony against the DP.
First to be slapped with an arrest warrant was journalist Walter Barasa.
Two months ago, the Court unsealed two warrants, against lawyer Paul Gicheru and Philip Kipkoech Bett.
Bensouda is now knocking on Ruto’s door and those in the know say she could be laying the ground to charge Ruto with offences against the administration of justice.
The ICC has rejected Barasa’s request for a revocation of the arrest warrant and a substitution with summons to appear, insisting the journalist can only be granted interim release once he has surrendered and been detained.
However, his lawyer Nick Kaufman told the Star the ICC was being unfair to his client.
“Walter Barasa is ready to present himself before the Court, at any time, on the same terms of surrender offered to the principal suspects in the Kenya situation who, it should be stressed, were charged with far more serious crimes,” Kaufman told the Star.
“The ICC is duty bound to respect the law and Judiciary of Kenya and those very same mechanisms have granted Walter Barasa provisional protection from arrest. Walter Barasa will continue to claim his innocence and rights under the law,” he said.
Profiles of three Kenyans with unsealed warrants text originally published by Journalists for Justice
Walter Osapiri Barasa
Date of birth: 1972
Place of birth: Kenya
Warrant of arrest:
Issued under seal on 2 August 2013
Unsealed on 2 October 2013
The Prosecution alleges that Walter Osapiri Barasa is criminally responsible as direct perpetrator, under article 25(3)(a) or alternatively article 25(3)(f) of the Rome Statute for three counts of offences against the administration of justice consisting in in corruptly or attempting to corruptly influencing three ICC witnesses.
A former journalist, Barasa worked for Nation for about four years and then left and started writing for the Weekly Citizen using Walter Osapiri as his byline.
Between 2000 and 2001, he was employed as a researcher at the Centres for Human Rights and Democracy (CHRD) run by activist Ken Wafula in Eldoret. He also worked as the People newspaper’s Eldoret correspondent.
After post-2007 election violence, he worked with a number of NGOs. His outgoing personality saw him he one day meet with ICC investigators and become a logistics person identifying potential witnesses and bringing them to the ICC. He would also arrange for statement taking and relocation of witnesses.
He had expected that he would get a handsome payoff for the work he did for the ICC but when he only received a ‘Thank You’ letter with no monetary reward, he switched sides.
On September 21, 2013, before his arrest warrant was unsealed, he met an ICC investigator at Westgate Shopping Mall just hours before the terrorist attack. During the meeting, it is said the investigator made him an offer to agree to become a prosecution witness and disclose to the judges how one of the accused persons at the ICC and his associates tampered with witnesses or the court would unseal his arrest warrant.
Based on his previous experience as an intermediary when he left empty handed, it is said he declined the offer. A short while later, the arrest warrant against him was unsealed. An extradition cause filed in the High Court for his surrender went against him, but he appealed.
Afterwards, his elderly mother collapsed and died in what some say may have been caused by shock.
He now lives in Eldoret with no formal employment and a fugitive. Barasa was born in Mt Elgon region, Bungoma County.
He is a prominent lawyer described by close associates describe as one of the best legal minds in the country. He has lived most of his life in Eldoret, where he runs the legal firm – Gicheru and Company Advocates – with offices in Nairobi.
It is said that given his work he became very close to one of the ICC defence lawyers and was drafting affidavits for witnesses who had recanted their testimony against Ruto and Sang.
Currently he is the chairman of the Public Procurement Review Board, a position he was appointed to after Jubilee Coalition came into power in 2013.
According to Ken Wafula, who has since turned ICC critic, what Mr Gicheru was doing was within his professional practice.
“The ICC cannot criminalise a profession,” Wafula told Journalists for Justice.
Gicheru once acted for Wafula in a case against the Judges and Magistrates Vetting board in 2013 when the activist appealed the sacking of Justices Mohammed Ibrahim and Roselyne Nambuye. Both judges were reinstated. Justice Mr Ibrahim sits in the Supreme Court while Justice Nambuye is a Court of Appeal judge.
He is the least known of all the three people the ICC has issued warrants of arrest against for witness tampering.
He comes from Kaptebet near Turbo which was hard hit by violence that erupted in the aftermath of the 2007 elections.
He shares a boundary with the Meshack Yebei, who was abducted and his body later found after several days. Yebei’s murder was linked to his association with the ICC.
Bett works a casual labourer for a Joseph Kering, mainly as a farm hand. His employer is said to be very close friends with William Ruto.
Bett is mainly said to have been a go-between for the prosecution witnesses and allies of the accused persons.
He is in his early 30s and maintains a low profile. He has been avoiding the glare of the media after his arrest warrant was unsealed.alter Osapiri Barasa.