Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

© 2010 Reuters

(New York) - The Kenyan government should make clear that the Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir, will be arrested if he returns to Kenya, African civil society organizations, and international organizations with a presence in Africa said in a letter to President Mwai Kibaki released today.

News reports indicate that al-Bashir may travel to Kenya for a meeting of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in late October or November to discuss the January 2011 referendum on Southern Sudan secession. Al-Bashir is sought by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for serious crimes in violation of international law committed in Darfur.

"A return visit by al-Bashir would make a mockery of Kenya's declared commitments to the International Criminal Court, and would be an insult to victims of atrocities in Darfur and globally," said Hassan Shire Sheikh of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project.

Al-Bashir has entered Kenyan territory once since he became subject to an ICC arrest warrant: in August 2010, to attend the celebration of Kenya's new constitution. Kenyan officials cited concerns over regional stability in welcoming him to Kenyan territory without arrest.

"Kenya understandably has concerns about regional stability ahead of Sudan's referendum, but states that are dedicated to accountability should manage these concerns in ways that do not undermine justice for the most serious crimes," said Oby Nwankwo, of Nigeria's Civil Resource Development and Documentation Center.

The Kenyan government also cited the African Union decision at its 2010 July summit meeting, calling for governments not to cooperate in the arrest of al-Bashir, in explaining the August visit.

"Failure to cooperate with the ICC runs counter to Kenya's obligations as an ICC state party as well as Kenya's constitution and other domestic law," said Stella Ndirangu of the Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists.

Kenya is the site of another ongoing ICC investigation, focused on crimes committed following Kenya's 2007 general elections. The letter noted that Kenya can help show its commitment to accountability for these crimes by clarifying that ICC suspects will be arrested if in Kenya.

The organizations that signed the letter are:
Action of Christian Activists of Human Rights in Shabunda, South Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo
African Assembly for the Defense of Human Rights, Dakar, Senegal
Amnesty International, Cotonou, Benin
Association for Human Rights and the Penitentiary World, Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo
Burkinabe Coalition for the ICC, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
Cameroonian Coalition for the ICC, Douala, Cameroon
The Center for Research on Environment, Democracy and Human Rights, Goma, DRC
Central African Republic Coalition for the ICC, Central African Republic
Children Education Society, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania
Civil Resource Development and Documentation Center, Enugu, Nigeria
Congolese Coalition for Transitional Justice, Bukavu, DRC
Coalition for the ICC, Cotonou, Benin
East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, Kampala, Uganda
Human Rights Network-Uganda, Kampala, Uganda
Human Rights Watch, Johannesburg, South Africa
International Center for Transitional Justice, Nairobi, Kenya
International Crime in Africa Programme, Institute for Security Studies, Pretoria, South Africa
Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists, Nairobi, Kenya
Nigerian Coalition for the ICC, Abuja, Nigeria
Southern Africa Litigation Center, Johannesburg, South Africa
Uganda Coalition for the International Criminal Court, Kampala, Uganda
Uganda Victims Foundation, Lira, Uganda
West African Human Rights Defenders Network, Lomé, Togo