Kenyan lawyer Paul Gicheru at ICC

Kenyan lawyer Paul Gicheru makes his first appearance before the ICC on November 6, 2020, before Judge Reine Adélaïde Sophie Alapini-Gansou of Pre-Trial Chamber A.

| Pool | AFP

Lawyer Gicheru seeks information on trial judge's background

The Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) at the International Criminal Court has no further information to disclose to Kenyan lawyer Paul Gicheru on his request for details concerning past employment of trial judge Miatta Maria Samba.

In its submissions on Mr Gicheru's request, deputy prosecutor James Stewart yesterday said the OTP had no observations or comments to make in relation to the issue.

Mr Gicheru is searching for information on whether the judge, who is handling his witness bribery case, participated in the investigations related to the 2007/08 post-election violence in Kenya.  

At the time, the judge was based in Uganda working with the OTP under former Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo. 

The lawyer is accused of bribing eight key witnesses in the vacated case against Deputy President William Ruto at The Hague.

"The Prosecution confirms that all information available to the OTP concerning the single judge’s previous employment with the OTP was provided to the Defence by way of formal communication on July 29, 2021. Since then, the Prosecution has not identified any further information of relevance to the matter at hand," said Mr Stewart. 

In the said formal communication, Senior Prosecution trial lawyer in the Gicheru case, Mr Anton Steynberg, confirmed to the Defence counsel Michael Karnavas that indeed the trial judge was initially an employee of the OTP. 

Mr Steynberg informed the defence that from 2006 until October 28, 2010, Justice Samba worked in the OTP as a field operations officer in Uganda. 

The prosecutor also informed the defence about the duties performed by Judge Samba as a field operations officer. 

Feeling the information provided by the OTP was not sufficient, the Defence counsel made a formal request to the judge asking her to disclose details on her role as field officer in Uganda. 

The judge is yet to respond. Mr Karnavas wants to know whether she was present during any discussions or de-briefing sessions concerning any of the witnesses in the Ruto and Joshua Sang, or Gicheru cases.

He also says according to Judge Samba’s ICC CV, she worked for the ICC OTP as a field operations officer in the Uganda Field Office, “providing assistance to investigators from the OTP… to Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.”

He points out that in her response to the advisory committee’s questionnaire, Justice Samba stated that her “primary duty was to manage witnesses of the OTP, most of whom were vulnerable witnesses and victims of sexual violence”.

She was “also the custodian of exhibits for the OTP and … assisted investigators who went out in the field to gather information and evidence for crimes within the Court’s jurisdiction". 

The lawyer wants to be provided with information on the names of any witnesses in the Ruto and Sang and Gicheru cases that Judge Samba interacted with, including the times, locations, and nature of the interactions.

He also wants to know whether Judge Samba participated in any interviews of any witnesses in the Ruto and Sang or Gicheru cases and the names of the witnesses, the participating OTP staff members, and the times and locations of these interviews.

Meanwhile, the court has allowed Gicheru's request to push the pretrial conference scheduled for September 17 to September 24.

"Although the Chamber considers that the request could benefit from further substantiation, it notes that the prosecution does not oppose the postponement," said Judge Samba while allowing the postponement. 

The Defence submitted the request to reschedule the first status conference because of a scheduling conflict.

It informed the chamber that the Counsel for the Defence made arrangements to deal with matters outside of The Netherlands prior to the scheduling of the status conference.