NAIROBI, Nov 29 – The Kenyan government will contest an arrest warrant issued by a domestic court for Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir after failing to detain him on a visit last year, the foreign ministry said on Tuesday.
A Kenyan judge issued a warrant for the Sudanese leader on Monday after the government failed to execute an International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant when Bashir visited Nairobi last August.
Bashir is wanted in The Hague-based ICC for alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed in Sudan’s Darfur region, where the UN says at least 300,000 people have been killed in the eight-year conflict.
Kenya has ratified the ICC’s founding Rome statute, which theoretically obliges it to execute the court’s warrants.
Judge Nicolas Ombija said the court ruling meant that Bashir’s arrest “should be effected by the attorney general and the minister for internal security should he ever set foot in Kenya.”
But Foreign Minister Moses Wetang’ula said in a statement on Tuesday: “Since our judicial system provides for right of appeal, we shall carefully look at the judgement with a view to requesting the attorney general to expeditiously prefer an appeal in the matter.”
“It is settled law, both treaty and custom, as well as established and uncontested state practice that serving heads of state are immune from criminal prosecution by any state,” he said.
“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.”
After Monday’s court ruling, Sudan ordered Kenya’s ambassador to leave the country within 72 hours and ordered its ambassador to leave Nairobi.
Bashir had attended last year a ceremony in Nairobi to mark the adoption of Kenya’s new constitution.
After he left the country a free man, the Kenyan chapter of the International Commission of Jurists, an association of legal professionals that promotes human rights, approached the courts to issue a warrant.
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 for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The second was issued in July 2010 on charges of genocide.