21 February 2013

Sudan: Kenyan Ambassador in Sudan Says Bashir Is Welcome to Visit 'At Any Time'

Khartoum — The outgoing Kenyan ambassador in Sudan Robert Ngesu affirmed his country's solidarity with Khartoum against the International Criminal Court (ICC) saying that president Bashir is welcome to visit "at any time".

Bashir has been indicted by the Hague-based court over allegations he is responsible for the deaths of up to 300,000 people in Darfur since 2003. He has denied the charges.

In an interview with the pro-government al-Rayaam newspaper, Ngesu dismissed a ruling by a Kenyan judge ordering the government to arrest Bashir.

He was referring to the decision of Judge Nicholas Ombija in November 2011 that Bashir should be apprehended "should he set foot in Kenya in future."

Kenya is a member of the Hague tribunal which in 2009 & 2010 issued two arrest warrants for Bashir on ten counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

Despite the country's legal obligation under the ICC's statute, it chose to receive Bashir in August 2010 without arresting him prompting the Kenyan chapter of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) afterwards to move the issue to the local High Court.

Kenyan officials argue that they are bound by African Union resolutions instructing its members not to cooperate with the ICC with regard to Bashir even if they are ICC members.

The ICJ sought a ruling to compel Nairobi to detain the Sudanese leader if he visited.

"Whereas the High Court of Kenya Hereby issues this provisional warrant of arrest against the said Omar al Bashir and commands you, Professor George Saitoti, E.G.H., M.P., Minister of State for Provincial Administration and Internal Security and, failing you, the Minister for the time responsible for matters relating to national security, to apprehend the said Omar al Bashir should he come to Kenya, and to surrender him to the ICC" said the warrant signed by judge Nicholas Ombija.

The ruling infuriated Bashir who expelled the Kenyan envoy and gave Nairobi two weeks to reverse the decision before imposing sanctions.

The government in Nairobi convinced Khartoum that it will appeal the decision which it did a few weeks later. The appellate court refused a request by the government to suspend the warrant against Bashir and ordered that it stays in effect until the appeal is fully heard.

It is not clear when a decision might be made on the case.

The Kenyan ambassador told al-Rayaam that Judge Ombija has been dismissed over his "incompetence" and interference in non-legal affairs.

Last December, local Kenyan media reported that the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board in Kenya decided that Judge Ombija is unfit to continue being a judge because of "defects in his temperament". He was among five other High Court judges who were dismissed from the bench for reasons that ranged from corruption to unbecoming conduct in court towards litigants and lawyers.

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