Kenya criticised for failing to arrest Sudan's Bashir

28th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

Kenya came under international criticism Friday for failing to arrest visiting Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who faces genocide and war crimes charges over atrocities in Darfur.

Bashir on Friday attended a ceremony in Nairobi adopting a new constitution for Kenya despite warrants for his arrest issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

"The Republic of Kenya has a clear obligation to cooperate with the Court in relation to the enforcement of such warrants of arrest," the ICC said in a statement.

The court said it planned to inform the UN Security council and states party to the treaty which founded the ICC so they may "take any measure they may deem appropriate."

Kenya, as an ICC signatory state, is obliged to arrest Bashir, who was indicted in March 2009 for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity, and in July 2010 on charges of genocide.

The charges relate to atrocities committed by Khartoum's forces in Sudan's western province of Darfur.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged "all States party to the Rome Statute to cooperate with the Court and this would be consistent with Security Council resolution 1593" which referred the Darfur atrocities to the ICC, said his spokesman Martin Nesirky.

"State parties to the Rome Statute have an obligation to cooperate fully with the International Criminal Court."

US President Barack Obama said he was "disappointed that Kenya hosted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in defiance of International Criminal Court arrest warrants for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide."

Obama reminded Kenya that it had committed itself to full cooperation with the ICC and added: "In Kenya and beyond, justice is a critical ingredient for lasting peace."

The European Union's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton also reminded Kenya of "its obligations under international law to arrest and surrender those indicted by the ICC."

Liechtenstein's UN ambassador, Christian Wenaweser, who presides over the assembly of states who have signed up to the ICC treaty, said Kenya's failure to arrest Bashir was "a very serious violation of its obligations under the Rome Statue of which it is a signature.

Bashir, whose name was not on the list of heads of state expected to attend the constitution ceremony issued by the Kenyan foreign ministry, arrived at Uhuru Park Friday and was ushered to the main dais.

He appeared relaxed and smiling as he shook hands with other African leaders attending the ceremony.

Bashir later returned home to Sudan, his press spokesman said.

Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula was unapologetic, saying Bashir was in Nairobi "because we invited all neighbours and he is a neighbour."

"There are no apologies to make about anybody we invited to this function because I am sure we are enhancing peace and security and stability of this region more than anything else," he added.

Bashir in July visited neighbouring Chad, which was at the time strongly criticised by the European Union and human rights groups for its refusal to arrest him.

That visit was his first to an ICC member state, although both Chad and Kenya are members of the African Union which has said that the arrest warrants against Bashir are counterproductive for the quest for peace in Darfur.

The ICC has no police and relies on states that support it to carry out arrests.

Human Rights Watch had also urged Kenya to arrest Bashir.

"Kenya will forever tarnish the celebration of its long-awaited constitution if it welcomes an international fugitive to the festivities," Elise Keppler, senior counsel in the International Justice Program at the New York-based rights monitor, said in a statement.

"Even worse, hosting Bashir would throw into question Kenya's commitment to cooperate with the ICC in its Kenyan investigation."

The ICC plans to pursue six Kenyans over the 2007-2008 poll unrest which claimed 1,200 lives.


© 2010 AFP

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