ICC prosecutors close case against lawyer Paul Gicheru

Paul Gicheru

Lawyer Paul Gicheru during the opening of his case at the ICC on February 15, 2022.

Photo credit: Pool | Nation Media Group

International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutors have concluded their case against Kenyan lawyer Paul Gicheru, with the last witness saying his life was in danger because of his testimony.

The witness, P-0739, said he feared for his life because of the nature of his evidence and the persons he mentioned during the three days he was in the witness box at The Hague.

“I want direction about my situation because it came to my knowledge as from yesterday while testifying that my security is threatened based on what I have said,” the witness said.

He sought assurances from the court that the financial support he receives from the court’s Victims and Witnesses Unit (VWU) will not be cut because he has finished testifying.

He disclosed that after he testified in the terminated case against Deputy President William Ruto and journalist Joshua Sang – where the trial court found that he had given ICC investigators false statements to incriminate Dr Ruto – the court reduced its financial support.

Inconsistent testimony

“I am saying this out of experience. The last time I testified (in the Ruto-Sang case) and later the amount (I was receiving from court) was reduced by almost a quarter. That is my worry,” he added.

The defence lawyer depicted the witness as a liar who gave inconsistent testimony.

Judge Miatta Maria Samba told the witness that the Registry will address his concerns. Prosecutor Anton Steynberg said the Office of the Prosecutor will conduct a risk assessment.

“I can assure you of your security and ask the Registry to do what has to be put in place for your security. VWU will do everything to keep you safe,” said Judge Samba.

“The prosecutor has said they will do a risk assessment and put the necessary measures in place. But I have instructed the Registry to act.

“Once he has finished testifying, VWU will do a post-testimony assessment on security. Measures such as permanent relocation will be taken.”

Mr Gicheru’s lawyer, Suzana Tomanović, portrayed the witness, who testified via video link from a third country, as an inconsistent person who could not be believed.

Paid Sh2 million

The witness had testified that he was paid Sh2 million by Mr Gicheru to withdraw as a witness in Dr Ruto’s crimes against humanity case.

But when asked by the defence how he utilised the money, the witness could not account for it. But he explained that a person who linked him to Mr Gicheru kept begging for a share of the money and so he was unable to enjoy it.

“Mr Gicheru’s friend had a role in the money I had been given. He would ask for the money to fuel and kept on begging from me,” the witness said.

“That person came to ensure it is running out of my pocket. There is nothing to show because it was not money to be happy (with). We were not writing anything.”

The defence lawyer said that a reading of the witness’ testimony since 2014 did not indicate that he said Mr Gicheru gave him the money or that Mr Gicheru gave money to anybody near the witness.

The witness also testified that the claimed person, identified as Person-19 in court papers, took him to Mr Gicheru’s residence to discuss the money and recanting his evidence against Dr Ruto.

But the court heard that when ICC investigators asked him to describe the house and draw a sketch of its interior, he was unable to do so. He told them he could not remember details about the house.

In the interview conducted in July 2014, the court heard that P-0739 said he had not been to the house.

“I don’t remember talking about his residence and I don’t remember stating about that particular issue,” he said.

He blamed his inconsistencies on psychological issues that he said he was grappling with, because at the time he was concerned about his children’s education.

He also told the court that at the time he recorded his statement with the investigators he was not in the right frame of mind. He got better after being admitted to the ICC witness protection programme and was relocated.

He also testified that Mr Gicheru contacted him often via phone. He also used to contact him.

However, the defence lawyer told the court that an analysis of 3,500 pages of call data did not confirm the phone calls.

Hostile witness

“We went through the forensic extraction report of contact numbers and names. You don’t even have Gicheru’s number,” said the lawyer.

Witness P-0739 was the prosecution’s eighth and final witness against Mr Gicheru. The court is waiting for Mr Gicheru to provide direction on April 25 on whether he will mount a defence.

Meanwhile, prosecutors have decided not to proceed with forcing a hostile witness, identified as P-0743, to testify in the matter.

The court had already issued summons against him. He had testified in the terminated trial of Dr Ruto and Mr Sang and prosecutors wanted him to testify in the trial of Mr Gicheru.

But he evaded investigators from the Office of the Prosecutor and dropped communication, and became unresponsive and uncooperative.

Prosecutors also dropped P-0495 and P-0604, saying they were unreliable. The two were also witnesses in the Ruto-Sang case.