Nairobi, November 30, 2011 (FH) - Kenyan civil society activists welcomed a High Court's decision to issue an arrest warrant for Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Dafur, Western Sudan, saying it was long overdue.

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Ken Wafula, head of National Council of NGOs of Kenya (NCNGO) said in a phone interview that "the arrest warrant is a major precedent that should be adopted by other countries not only in Kenya, but in Africa."

"We think the Kenyan High court made the right decision to issue the warrant. This is going to help fight impunity that has been displayed by political leaders," he explained. "This is a precedent that we urge all African countries to adopt and make sure that Bashir does not escape arrest and eventual justice," added Wafula, also the president of National Civil Society of Kenya.

He explained: "According to the Kenyan new constitution; the mandate to arrest a suspect does not lie with the government alone. It lies with the people of  Kenya and should Bashir come to the country and he is not arrested; we shall mobilise the civil society and more than a million people to make sure that he is arrested; they may open fire; kill many of us; but we shall arrest him".

On Monday Justice Nicholas Ombija, in a ruling on a case filed by the Kenyan chapter of the International Commission for Jurists (ICJ) said: "'His arrest should be effected by the Attorney General and the Minister for Internal Security should he ever set foot in Kenya''.

Meanwhile Kenyan government on Tuesday announced plans to appeal the High court's decision,

"Since our judicial system provides for right of appeal, we shall carefully look at the judgement with a view to requesting the Attorney General (Githu Muigai) to expeditiously prefer an appeal in the matter," said Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula in a statement.

Wetangula who issued the statement Tuesday from the Burundian capital, Bujumbura where the Summit of the East African Community (EAC) among others would consider Sudan application to join the regional block,  said Kenya wanted to retain excellent bilateral relations with Sudan and, "Kenya does not, therefore, contemplate any retaliatory action."

"The Government of Kenya therefore expresses its deep concern at the very unhelpful High Court ruling and will do everything within its powers to ensure that the ruling does not undermine in any way whatsoever the very cordial and fraternal relations that exist between Kenya and Sudan," said the brief statement sent to newsrooms.

Though Kenya has ratified the statute that established ICC, it failed to arrest the Sudanese leader when he visited the country in August 2010 to attend a ceremony marking the adoption of Kenya's new constitution. As a signatory of the ICC's founding treaty, Kenya was theoretically obliged to arrest Bashir when he entered the country.

Bashir is the subject of two arrest warrants issued by the ICC for atrocities committed in Darfur in western Sudan. The first was issued in March 2009 on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The second was issued in July 2010 on charges of genocide.

ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo accuses Bashir of personally instructing his forces to exterminate the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups.

About 300,000 people died since conflict broke out in Darfur in 2003, when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated regime for a greater share of resources and power, according to UN figures but Sudan's government says 10,000 have been killed.

The African Union has on several occasions called on its member's states not to arrest the Sudanese president, accusing the ICC of targeting only Africans and arguing that the arrest of Bashir would hurt the peace process between Sudan and South Sudan.


© Hirondelle News Agency