24 October 2010

Kenya: Keep Bashir From Igad Talks, Kibaki And Raila Urged

Nairobi — Human rights and civil society groups have protested over an invitation of indicted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to Kenya, saying it negates the country's commitment to the International Criminal Court.

More than 20 lobby groups have petitioned President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga not to allow Mr al-Bashir to attend the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) meeting in Kenya.

President al-Bashir is sought by the ICC on charges of crimes against humanity committed in Darfur. His visit to Kenya during the promulgation of the new Constitution in August sparked global condemnation.

The civic society organisations, among them the International Commission of Jurists, the Human Rights Watch and the International Centre for Transitional Justice, insist the decision to invite al-Bashir also contravenes Kenya's laws vide the International Crimes Act and the Constitution (under section 2(6)).

"We are seriously concerned over reports of a possible return visit to Kenya by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, for an Igad meeting to deliberate on the January referendum on Southern Sudan in late October or November," the joint statement by 23 African civil rights organisations.

Fight against impunity

The organisations say that although Kenya and her neighbours may have genuine concerns about regional stability in the lead up to the Sudan referendum, it is imperative they are committed to justice for serious crimes and should not undermine the fight against impunity.

"A visit by al-Bashir would run counter to Kenya's commitment to the ICC. It would also send damaging signals to victims of mass atrocity in Darfur and undermine Kenya's credibility on issues of justice," the statement said.

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