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Kenya Defends Bashir Invitation

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

Kenya's foreign minister is defending his government's decision to invite Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir, to its constitution signing ceremony - even though the Sudanese leader is under an international arrest warrant for genocide and war crimes.

Speaking to reporters in Nairobi Friday, Moses Wetangula said Omar al-Bashir was invited to the dedication ceremony because Kenya invited the leaders of all its neighbors.

Kenya has recognized the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, which should obligate it to enforce the court's decisions.

The ICC said in a statement Friday it was reporting Mr. Bashir's visit to ICC member states and the United Nations Security Council so that they could "take any measure they deem appropriate."

Elizabeth Evenson, a researcher for Human Rights Watch told VOA that she believes Mr. Bashir's presence at the ceremony is an "insult" to the victims in Darfur and the victims of Kenya's post-election violence.

Evenson and other human rights activists said the visit throws into question Kenya's commitment to the international criminal court, which is also investigating the events in Kenya.

This is Mr. Bashir's second visit to a country that recognizes the ICC's authority. Last month, he traveled to Chad, where the government also refused to detain him.

The ICC issued warrants for Mr. Bashir last year on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sudan's Darfur region. Last month, the court added genocide charges.

ICC prosecutors say President Bashir has masterminded a campaign of murder, rape and other crimes against civilians in Darfur, where his government has been fighting rebels since 2003. Sudan denies the charges and refuses to recognize the court.

The United Nations says fighting and related violence in Darfur has killed 300,000 people and displaced more than 2.7 million. Sudan puts the death toll at 10,000.

Mr. Bashir has ruled Sudan since seizing power in a 1989 coup.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.