News / Africa

ICC Asks Kenya to Arrest Sudanese President Bashir

Michael Onyiego

The International Criminal Court is urging Kenya to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir amid reports he will visit the country at the end of the month.

Responding to reports that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir would travel to Kenya to attend an October 30 Intergovernmental Authority on Development Summit, the Pre-Trial Chamber 1 of the International Criminal Court has asked Kenya to fulfill its obligations to the court.

In a decision released Monday, the judges called for Kenya to arrest the Sudanese leader and present him to the court.  According to the Associate Legal Outreach Officer for the Court, Fadi El Abdullah, the court also requested that Kenya clarify its position regarding Mr. Bashir's arrest.

"In case Kenya sees there is a problem, which would prevent the implementation of these warrants of arrest, then Kenya should refer to the ICC judges, explaining that they consider that there is this problem that would prevent the Kenyan authorities from arresting and surrendering Mr. al-Bashir," he said.

The decision required Kenya to present its reasoning no later than October 29. According to Abdullah, if Kenya fails to either arrest Mr. Bashir or explain its actions before his arrival, it could be labeled as non-cooperative by the court.

"If there is no problem that is referred to the judges, by way of consequences it should implement the arrest warrants. If the arrest warrants are not implemented then the judges can consider the issue whether or not to consider that this is non-cooperation of the state that is party to the Rome Statute," he said.

Abdullah said in the case of Sudan, Kenya's failure to comply with the court ruling would likely be referred to the U.N. Security council.

President Omar al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide committed in the Darfur region of Sudan. He is the first sitting head of state to be indicted by the court.

If Mr. Bashir visits Kenya at the end of the week, it will be his second visit in less than two months. To the surprise of the international community, Mr. Bashir attended a ceremony in late August to promulgate Kenya's new constitution.  

His visit received broad condemnation, but was defended by Kenya as necessary under its obligations to the African Union. The African body passed a resolution in July that discouraged members from executing the court's warrants.

A member of the International Commission of Jurists - Kenya, Judy Gitau, is concerned another visit by the Sudanese president will put Kenya's commitment to the Court in doubt. "We are terribly worried. On the 27th the whole world saw when President Bashir was invited into the country to observe a promulgation of which he has no interest in any event. This is definitely mixed signals," he said.

Kenya is facing its own investigation by the International Criminal Court. Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo is investigating alleged crimes against humanity committed during the post-election chaos in 2007 and 2008 that left more than 1,300 dead.

President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga have pledged to support the investigation.

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