Situation: The Republic of Kenya
On the 10th of March 2015, Pre-Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court ("ICC" or "the Court") issued two arrest warrants under seal for Paul Gicheru and Philip Kipkoech Bett, respectively, on charges of interfering with ICC witnesses in the Kenya Situation, contrary to Article 70(1)(c) of the Rome Statute. Following the arrest of these two suspects in Nairobi, and the notification of this fact to the Office of the Prosecutor by the Kenyan authorities on 24 August 2015, the Pre-Trial Chamber II of the ICC unsealed these warrants of arrest earlier today.
The Chamber's decision to issue these warrants is significant. The integrity of witnesses is essential for the Court's determination of the truth. Interfering with the attendance or testimony of ICC witnesses, or retaliating against them are serious crimes under Article 70 of the Rome Statute.
In its decision to issue the arrest warrants against Messrs Gicheru and Bett, the Chamber found that the evidence submitted by the Prosecution demonstrated, to the standard required at this stage in the proceedings, that Messrs Gicheru and Bett were involved in an organised and systematic criminal scheme, aimed at approaching and corrupting Prosecution witnesses through bribes and other inducements, in exchange for their withdrawal as witnesses and/or recantation of their prior statements to the Prosecution.
The Chamber thus determined that the evidence presented by the Prosecution established reasonable grounds to believe that Messrs Gicheru and Bett are criminally responsible under articles 70(1)(c) and 25(3) of the Rome Statute respectively for the crime of corruptly influencing a total of six Prosecution witnesses.
The Chamber decided further that it was necessary to arrest the two suspects to ensure their appearance at trial, so that they do not obstruct or endanger the investigation or proceedings, and so that they do not continue to commit the crimes charged.
It bears recalling that approximately two years ago, on 2 August 2013, Pre-Trial Chamber II issued an arrest warrant for Mr Walter Osapiri Barasa on charges of interfering with ICC witnesses, contrary to Article 70(1)(c) of the Rome Statute.
Collectively, these warrants of arrest underscore my commitment to using, to the extent possible, available measures under the Rome Statute to safe-guard the integrity of the Court's proceedings. My Office is investigating, identifying, and prosecuting individuals who seek to pervert the course of justice at the ICC.
It has been a long and difficult road since 31 March 2010, when the Office first began its investigations in Kenya. We have faced serious obstacles in our endeavor to unveil the truth, and to hold to account those most responsible for atrocity crimes committed against innocent Kenyans during the 2007-2008 post-election violence.
The Office's independent and impartial investigations and prosecutions in the Kenya situation have been methodically undermined by a relentless campaign that has targeted individuals who are perceived to be Prosecution witnesses, with threats or offers of bribes, to dissuade them from testifying or persuade witnesses to recant their prior testimony.
As a result, potential witnesses have been too scared to come forward, while others who gave statements have subsequently sought to withdraw from the process, citing intimidation. Indeed, the Chamber of Judges presiding over the ongoing trial of Messrs Ruto and Sang, recently noted the systematic nature of the interference of several witnesses in that case.
I trust that the Kenyan authorities will fulfil their obligations under the Rome Statute to ensure the surrender of all three suspects to the custody of the Court so that their guilt or innocence on the charges against them may be determined in a court of law.
Within its means and mandate, my Office will continue to investigate and take appropriate action against individuals who attempt to pervert the course of justice by interfering with ICC witnesses.