NAIROBI — Sudan’s president defied an international arrest warrant by visiting Kenya yesterday, causing an outcry from the International Criminal Court, which fruitlessly pressured authorities here to arrest the man accused of masterminding the genocide in Darfur.
Rather than arrest President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, who was invited along with other regional leaders for the signing of Kenya’s new constitution, officials treated him with the dignity accorded a head of state. Wearing a dark suit and tie, Bashir had a front-row position for the historic ceremony.
The International Criminal Court has no police force and depends on member states to enforce its orders. Bashir’s presence in Kenya underscored that the system to bring the world’s worst human rights violators to justice depends on member states and raised doubts about Kenya’s willingness to hand over suspects expected to soon be charged for postelection violence that left more than 1,000 Kenyans dead in 2007-08.
Bashir was charged in March 2009 with five counts of crimes against humanity and two of war crimes for allegedly orchestrating atrocities in Darfur, a region of Sudan. Last month, he was charged with three counts of genocide, the first time the world’s first permanent war crimes tribunal has issued genocide charges.
Darfur’s ethnic African rebels rose up in 2003, accusing Sudan’s Arab-dominated central government of neglect and discrimination. UN officials estimated 300,000 people died and 2.7 million were displaced.
In The Hague, Netherlands, where the International Criminal Court is based, judges ordered that Kenya “has a clear obligation to cooperate’’ in enforcing arrest warrants. The court also ordered its registrar to inform the UN Security Council of Bashir’s presence in Kenya.
“His presence there is a slap on the souls of the victims of the genocide in Darfur,’’ said Ahmed Hussain Adam, spokesman for the Justice and Equality Movement, the most powerful rebel group in Darfur.
Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula of Kenya defended the invitation, saying Bashir is the “head of state of a friendly neighbor state.’’
Earlier this year, Bashir traveled to Chad, which also opted not to apprehend him.