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Human Rights Group Criticizes Kenya’s ‘Error’ over Bashir Invite

  • Peter Clottey

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir waves as he arrives at the promulgation of Kenya's New Constitution at the Uhuru Park grounds in Nairobi, 27 Aug 2010

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir waves as he arrives at the promulgation of Kenya's New Constitution at the Uhuru Park grounds in Nairobi, 27 Aug 2010

An official of the New York-based group Human Rights Watch (HRW) has expressed concern after an international group of lawmakers announced their support for Kenya’s decision in August to invite Sudan’s indicted leader to the promulgation of Kenya’s constitution.

Tiseke Kasambala, senior researcher at the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch, said Kenya made an error in judgment by allowing Sudan’s President, Hassan Omar Al-Bashir, to participate in the ceremony.

“Kenya is a member state of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and is therefore obliged to respect the International Criminal Court and is obliged not to invite President Al-Bashir, or, if he is invited to its territory, Kenya is obliged to arrest President Al-Bashir. We hope it does not set a precedent among other ICC state parties to do the same.”

At a meeting in Brussels Wednesday, the African, Caribbean and Pacific members of parliament from 75 countries said they support Kenya’s decision to invite the Sudanese leader.

In a statement, the legislators said, “Kenya’s primary duty to itself and to its neighbors is peace and security, at all costs, because, without this, there cannot be stability and or sustainable economic development, and further that any policy of exclusionism would negate this duty… It was in the context of all the foregoing that Kenya invited President Bashir in full knowledge of the situation, so as to facilitate and promote peace and security in a region otherwise ravaged by conflicts.”

The members of parliament also said Kenya has to give priority to the African Union’s position without being victimized for flouting the Rome Statute, which created the ICC.

But, HRW researcher Kasambala said, as a signatory of the Rome Statute, Kenya was obliged to arrest President Bashir rather than invite him to participate in the ceremony.

“It was definitely a misstep and I think that is not enough to justify inviting someone who is suspected of having committed crimes against humanity and war crimes against the people of Darfur to the country.”

An ICC spokesman in The Hague accuses Mr. Bashir of intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population of Darfur, murdering, exterminating, raping, torturing, and forcibly transferring large numbers of civilians, and pillaging their property.

Last year, a three-judge panel from the ICC charged President Bashir with seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity stemming from his government's counterinsurgency campaign in Sudan’s western Darfur region.

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