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ICC faults state for failing to turn in trio over witness interference

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The International Criminal Court has accused the government of failing to extradite two lawyers and a journalist to face charges of witness interference.

The court said it is unable to charge lawyers Philip Bett and Paul Gicheru, and journalist Walter Barasa for obstructing justice when President Uhuru Kenyatta and DP William Ruto were charged with crimes against humanity.

“If there is sufficient evidence to establish substantial grounds to believe the person committed the crimes charged, the judges can decide to commit the case to trial,” the ICC posted on its Twitter handle.

Uhuru and Ruto were charged with the atrocities committed after the 2007 election. More than 1,300 people were killed and 500,000 others displaced.

The ICC dropped the cases after a number of key suspects recanted their statements. Other suspects were killed or went missing, making it difficult for the cases to proceed. The court had also blamed the government for failing to provide key information that would form part of evidence.

The ICC has accused Bett, Gicheru and Barasa of witness interference and bribery, among other claims of impropriety, which allegedly led to suspects recanting statements and becoming hostile to the court.

“Philip Bett remains at large. He is suspected of offences against the administration of justice. The ICC relies on state cooperation worldwide to arrest and transfer him to the court,” the ICC said.

The warrant of arrest against Bett was issued on March 10, 2015. Bett faces four counts of offences against the administration of justice committed from 2013 to 2014.

Read: ICC accuses state of withholding evidence

“The warrant of arrest was issued under seal against Paul Gicheru and Philip Kipkoech Bett on March 10, 2015, and unsealed on September 10, 2015. They are not in the court’s custody,” the ICC said on its website.

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In November this year, High Court judge Luka Kimaru dismissed a government application that sought to extradite Gicheru and Bett to The Hague. He based his ruling on findings that the officers attached to the Office of the ICC Prosecutor attempted to coerce and intimidate the two lawyers.

“The case remains in the pre-trial stage, pending the suspects’ arrest or voluntary appearance before the court. The ICC does not try individuals in their absence,” the court said.

Gicheru faces six counts of offences against the administration of justice committed from 2013 to 2014. The court said he remains at large. The court said Barasa also remains at large. The warrant of arrest against Barasa was issued on August 2, 2013. He faces three counts of offences against the administration of justice.

“The arrest warrant was issued under seal against Mr Barasa on August 2, 2013, and unsealed on October 2, 2013,” the court said on its website.

The case remains in the pre-trial stage, pending the suspect’s arrest or voluntary appearance.

The judges of the pre-trial chamber at the ICC issue a warrant of arrest if there are reasonable grounds to believe that a person has committed a crime within the court’s jurisdiction and that the person will not appear voluntarily before it, will endanger the proceedings or investigation, or will continue committing crimes if not arrested.

Also Read: Muigai defends Kenya’s relations with the ICC

“If the judges believe the person will cooperate and come to the court voluntarily, they can issue a summons to appear,” it says.

Once an arrest warrant or a summons to appear is issued, a case enters the pre-trial stage, during which the pre-trial chamber judges determine whether or not there is sufficient evidence for the case to proceed to trial.

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