The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for a former journalist accused of attempting to bribe a witness in the case against Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto. The warrant will test Kenya’s willingness to cooperate with the ICC.
ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced Wednesday Kenya has received orders for the immediate arrest of Walter Barasa, and his transfer to the court in The Hague.
In a recorded statement, Bensouda said Barasa was part of a “wider scheme” to interfere with witnesses in the case against the deputy president.
“The evidence collected so far indicates there is a network of people who are trying to sabotage the case against Mr. Ruto by interfering with prosecution witnesses. Walter Barasa, against whom compelling evidence has been collected, has been part of this network,” said Bensouda.
Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto (R) reacts as he sits in the courtroom before his trial at the ICC in The Hague in this September 10, 2013, file photo.
She said the issuance of the warrant should be a warning to others. If convicted, Barasa could face five years in prison.
Barasa told VOA an investigator in the case had alerted him to the impending arrest warrant. The journalist said he has the “grounds to defend [himself] against the allegations.”
Warrant seen as key test for Kenya
The order came Wednesday as Deputy President Ruto returned to the ICC for the resumption of his trial. He and President Uhuru Kenyatta are being tried in separate cases for allegedly orchestrating the deadly violence that followed the 2007 presidential election.
Whether Kenya decides to arrest Barasa is a key test of the government’s willingness to cooperate with the ICC, according to Apollo Mboya, head of the Law Society of Kenya.
“If they don’t execute this particular warrant, then it can be reasonably inferred that in the future, they will not cooperate in other instances,” said Mboya.
While Kenyatta and Ruto have promised to obey ICC orders, they have been lobbying for the court to drop the cases against them, or to refer the cases back to Kenya. The African Union has also supported the motion.
President Kenyatta is scheduled to stand trial in November.