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AFRICAN PRESSURE GROUPS PROTEST AL-BASHIR'S EXPECTED VISIT TO KENYA

allAfrica.com - October 26, 2010

Nairobi — Twenty-three pressure groups from different African countries have sent a protesting letter to the Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki against a possible visit by Sudan's President Omer Al-Bashir to Nairobi at the end of this month to attend a regional summit on south Sudan.

Earlier this month, Kenya called for a summit of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in Nairobi on October 30 in order to discuss the upcoming referendum on south Sudan secession. However, the country's Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula declined to say whether Al-Bashir would be allowed to visit the country.

Last August, Kenya faced down international criticism and suffered rifts within its coalition government when it received Al-Bashir at the promulgation of the country's new constitution despite being a state member of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The ICC is seeking the arrest of Al-Bashir on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide allegedly committed in the course of a counterinsurgency campaign mounted by the Sudanese government and its allied militias against rebels who rose up in Sudan's westernmost region of Darfur in 2003.

Yesterday, 23 pressure groups sent a letter to the Kenyan president Muwai Kibaki to protest Al-Bashir's invite, saying that his visit would be "an insult" to the victims of Darfur conflict and make "a mockery" of Kenya's commitment to the ICC.

"A return visit by Al-Bashir would make a mockery of Kenya's declared commitment to the International Criminal Court, and would be an insult to victims of atrocities in Darfur and globally" said Hassan Shire Sheikh of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Projects.

The letter stated that Kenya's domestic law, the International Crimes Act and the Kenyan Constitution all oblige the Kenyan government to adhere to its commitment to the ICC.

"For all of these reasons" says the letter "we urge the Kenyan government to clearly affirm its commitment to cooperate with the ICC, as states such as South Africa and Botswana have done, and clarify that President al-Bashir will be arrested should he enter Kenya."

The letter said that arresting Al-Bashir would be "an important way to show respect for victims in Darfur, along with Kenya's commitment to accountability for crimes committed during electoral violence in Kenya."

Kenya is already under ICC investigation for the violence that followed its 2007's elections and which killed 1,133 people.

This move by African pressure groups is at odds with the African Union (AU) which instructed its member states not to cooperate with the ICC on Al-Bashir case. The AU also called on the UN Security Council to invoke article 16 of the Rome Statue, which founded the ICC, to defer the case against Al-Bashir.

On October 17, the Legal Officer for the Kenya chapter of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Stella Ndirangu, told Sudan Tribune that her group would seek court action to force the government to apprehend Al-Bashir should he attends the IGAD summit.

 





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