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International court wants PEV suspects arrested, charged

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By JOSEPH WANGUI
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Ghosts of the 2007/08 post-election violence have returned to haunt the country, with the International Criminal Court (ICC) calling for the arrest of three Kenyans suspected of witness interference.

Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has said that lawyers Paul Gicheru and Phillip Kipkoech Bett (alias Kipseng’erya) and journalist Walter Osapiri Barasa, who remain at large, are wanted by her office for trial.

Last year in November, the High Court in Kenya stopped their extradition to the ICC but Ms Bensouda is adamant that they ought to be extradited.

“ICC relies on State cooperation worldwide to arrest and transfer (suspects) to the Court,” the court posted on its twitter handle, in regard to each of the three suspects.

The three are among 15 other suspects from various countries wanted by the court for criminal trial.

The two lawyers are sought by the Office of The Prosecutor (OTP) for the crime of corruptly influencing a total of six Prosecution witnesses.

Mr Barasa is also accused of trying to bribe someone he thought was a Prosecution witness in the case against Deputy President William Ruto.

“The arrest warrant was issued under seal against Mr Barasa on August 2, 2013 and unsealed on October 2, 2013. The case remains at the pre-trial stage, pending the suspect’s arrest or voluntary appearance before the Court. The ICC does not try individuals in their absence,” the court says on its website.

The court’s position is the same on the cases of Mr Gicheru and Mr Bett. The warrant of arrest was issued under seal against the two on March 10, 2015 and unsealed on September 10, 2015.

In its decision to issue the arrest warrants against the two, the court’s Chamber found that the evidence submitted by the Prosecution demonstrated that “they 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.”

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On November 7 this year, during a seminar on arrests at ICC headquarters, Ms Bensouda said the court’s judicial machinery is likely to be frustrated and held in abeyance unless persons sought by the ICC are arrested and made to appear before the court.

“High-level political commitment and consistent diplomatic coordination between States and other actors is needed to address the arrest challenge. If left unaddressed, it will have negligible impact on specific or general deterrence and prevention of the world’s gravest crimes,” said Ms Bensouda.

She added that ICC arrest warrants must not be cast aside as mere inconveniences in inter and intra-state politics, or traded away in the service of political expediency.

“From the moment the Court’s judges issue an arrest warrant, responsibility for its execution falls on States Parties, as the Court’s executive arm, alongside any other States that may be under an obligation to cooperate. Impunity and instability are closely interrelated. When an alleged perpetrator of Rome Statute crimes remains at large, he or she may continue to commit crimes,” sated Ms Bensouda.

She called for action not only through vocal support & public statements, but also at the operational level.

“State Parties and Assembly of State Parties must take appropriate action in response to the Court’s findings of non-compliance on failure to arrest and surrender ICC suspects. My Office will continue to pursue non-compliance findings under Article 87 (7) of Rome Statute,” she added.

Cases against three Kenyans led by President Uhuru Kenyatta, his Deputy William Ruto and broadcaster Joshua Sang were terminated due to insufficient evidence.

The case against President Kenyatta was withdrawn on December 5, 2014 while that against his deputy and Mr Sanga was withdrawn on April 5, 2016.

They had been indicted by the court for the crimes committed during the post-election violence that claimed 1,133 lives and displaced over 650,000 people.

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