NGOs criticise government over Bashir order

December 2, 2011 1:25 pm

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 2 – Two civil society groups on Friday expressed concern over the government’s unwillingness to support the arrest order issued by the High Court on Monday against Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir.

The Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) together with the Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice (KPTJ) jointly condemned the position of the Executive, with KHRC Executive Director Atsango Chesoni urging respect for separation of powers.

Chesoni argued that it was wrong for the Executive to publicly undermine the Court’s decision saying it should appeal against it.

“It has been worrying to see the utterances that have been emanating from the Executive particularly from Cabinet Ministers and their assistants, who hold portfolios in relation to this matter. These statements appear to disparage the Courts,” Chesoni argued.

Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula on Tuesday released a statement criticising the ruling arguing that it would dent the existing cordial relationship between Kenya and Sudan.

After the Court’s ruling, Sudan expelled Kenya’s envoy to the country and also recalled its own forcing Wetangula and his Defense counterpart, Yusuf Hajji, to hold a crisis meeting after which Sudan rescinded its expulsion decision.

The civil societies also lauded Chief Justice Willy Mutunga for defending the independence of the Judiciary. Mutunga had warned the Executive against overstepping its mandate saying it should not intimidate judicial officers.

Chesoni added that the government’s position on the matter only served to promote impunity and was therefore against the spirit of the Constitution.

“Our representatives need to remember that we are the ones who elected them and so their primary responsibility is to us; it is not to someone else. They took an oath of office and one cannot just obey the law when it is convenient for them,” she argued.

The non governmental organisations further urged African countries to respect reforms. They particularly criticised IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development) for maligning the Court’s decision.

KPTJ Executive Director Gladwell Otieno noted that South Africa and Uganda were in support of Bashir’s arrest adding that peace and security would only be sustainable if justice was facilitated.

“We want to ask fellow Africans to respect the fact that Kenya is on the path of reforming the Judiciary in addition to the fact that it has domesticated the Rome Statute into law,” she observed.

The warrant of arrest was issued by High Court Judge Nicolas Ombija following an application that was filed last year, by the Kenyan chapter of the International Commission of Jurists, seeking to have Bashir arrested after he attended the ceremony promulgating the new Constitution.

Moreover Chesoni commended the Chief Justice for calling for investigations into the damages into the newly commissioned Milimani Law Court buildings. She said that the move would help ensure that persons behind the damages were brought to book.

“It’s unfortunate that the quality of work done on the buildings seems to have not been up to standard and I’m glad questions are being asked,” she said.


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