NAIROBI (Reuters) - A Kenyan court on Monday ordered the government to arrest Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, wanted by The Hague on genocide charges, should he travel again to the east African country where he was not arrested during his last visit.
Kenya was heavily criticized by the International Criminal Court (ICC) and foreign governments for failing to arrest Bashir when he attended a ceremony to enact a new Kenyan constitution in August last year.
The African Union has told its members not to heed the arrest warrant for Bashir, saying that while it did not condone impunity, the ICC appeared to be singling out African leaders.
However, as an ICC member state, Kenya is obliged to cooperate with the court and its arrest warrants.
The Kenyan court ordered Bashir’s arrest after the Kenyan chapter of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) filed a suit against the country’s attorney general and the internal security minister, seeking a new arrest warrant for the Sudanese leader.
Judge Nicholas Ombija said in his ruling that Bashir should be apprehended “should he set foot in Kenya in future.”
Sudan’s foreign ministry dismissed the ruling as politically motivated, and said it would not affect the country’s relations with Kenya. It contended that the decision had to do with Kenya’s domestic disputes and its relations with the ICC more than with the situation in Sudan.
The ministry said in a statement that it believed activists upset over the ICC’s “failures” to apprehend suspects and over Bashir’s successful visits abroad had pushed the court into making a “political decision.”
ICC judges reported Kenya to the United Nations Security Council for failing to arrest Bashir.
The Hague-based court has issued two warrants for Bashir, one dating from March 2009 on five counts of crimes against humanity and two counts of war crimes, and one issued in July 2010, on three counts of genocide.
The ICC has no police force and relies on member states to enforce its arrest warrants.
Bashir denies the charges, saying they are part of a Western conspiracy.
The African Union says another reason for its opposition to the ICC indictment of Bashir is the negative impact on Sudan’s peace process, at a time of sensitive negotiations between Sudan and South Sudan, which seceded in July.
Reporting by Humphrey Malalo; Additional reporting by Alexander Dziadosz in Khartoum; Writing by James Macharia; Editing by Mark Heinrich