Court urges US to arrest Sudan’s president if he travels to UN assembly
International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants in 2009 for Omar al-Bashir in relations to genocide and war crimes
Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir: arrest warrants issued for him for allegedly orchestrating the conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region in which more than 200,000 people were killed
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has asked the American government to arrest Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir if he attempts to attend the UN General Assembly in New York next week. Mr al-Bashir is wanted for genocide and war crimes.
Judges in The Hague issued an urgent travel advisory on Wednesday night saying they believed Mr al-Bashir had already applied for a US visa, after attending an African Union summit in Nairobi this week at which the Kenyan authorities failed to detain him despite a similar ICC request.
US government officials have since confirmed that they have received a visa application from the president, for whom two ICC arrest warrants were issued in 2009 for allegedly orchestrating the conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region in which more than 200,000 people were killed.
The US authorities did not comment on whether the visa would be granted. However, the US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, said an appearance by Mr al-Bashir at the General Assembly would be “deplorable, cynical and hugely inappropriate”.
Human Rights Watch said that if Mr al-Bashir did manage to attend, other member governments should refuse to have any contact with him, and should boycott any events in which he planned to take part.
“If al-Bashir turns up, it will be a brazen challenge to Security Council efforts to promote justice for crimes in Darfur,” declared its international justice programme director, Elise Keppler. “The last thing the UN needs is a visit by an ICC fugitive.
“This man belongs in just one place, The Hague, to face justice for the heinous crimes he is charged with committing. The many victims deserve to see him there, not in the halls of the United Nations.”
The Sudanese government – which dismisses the charges of mass killings in Darfur as “exaggerated” – confirmed Mr al-Bashir’s application. It maintained the US was obliged to grant the visa under the 1947 UN Headquarters Agreement establishing the organisation’s base in New York.
Asked about Ms Power’s comments, a spokesman replied: “The US government is not qualified morally, politically or legally to give any lessons about international law or human rights.”
The US is not a signatory of the Rome Statute which established the international court, and so would not be legally obliged to hand Mr al-Bashir over to the court.
However, Washington led international demands for him to face justice over Darfur, and Security Council Resolution 1593 of 2005 urged “all states” to co-operate fully.
For that reason, a high-profile appearance by Mr Al-Bashir would be embarrassing to US president Barack Obama, who plans to meet Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and perhaps even Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani, while the Assembly is in session.
On the other hand, failure to arrest Mr al-Bashir would severely undercut the already limited authority of the ICC.
It is still smarting from the African Union’s decision not to co-operate with the al-Bashir indictments, claiming African leaders were being “disproportionately targeted” by the court – the decision which allowed Mr al-Bashir to leave Kenya unchallenged just days ago.