x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Sudanese president defies arrest warrant to attend conference

As an International Criminal Court member state, "Chad should not flout its obligations to arrest al Bashir," a Human Rights Watch official said.

Omar al Bashir is wanted by the ICC on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity stemming from the Darfur conflict.
Omar al Bashir is wanted by the ICC on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity stemming from the Darfur conflict.

N'DJAMENA, Chad // President Omar al Bashir arrived in Chad on Wednesday for an African summit, the first time Sudan's leader has risked arrest by traveling to a member state of the International Criminal Court. Mr al Bashir faces charges of genocide and crimes against humanity for atrocities committed in Darfur. Because Chad is a member of the ICC, it could have Mr al Bashir arrested, but Sudan's government spokesman indicated he did not think that would happen.

"Relations between Sudan and Chad are more important, something beyond (the fact that) Chad is a member" of the ICC, said Rabie Abdel Attie. "I don't think Chad will do anything to harm the president. There is an agreement to end hostilities." The mayor of N'djamena presented Mr al Bashir with a key the city upon his arrival, indicating a warm welcome. Government officials could not immediately be reached to ask whether Mr al Bashir might be arrested. Besides participating in a summit of the Community of Sahel-Saharan States, the Sudanese president is also expected to discuss bilateral relations including a January agreement between Sudan and Chad to end hostilities and stop supporting each other's rebel groups, Abdel Attie said. Human Rights Watch urged Chad to arrest Bashir. "Chad risks the shameful distinction of being the first ICC member state to harbor a suspected war criminal from the court," said HRW's Elise Keppler. "Chad should not flout its obligations to arrest al Bashir if he enters Chad." Chad is a member state to the Rome Statute that created the ICC in 1998. The ICC has no police force and depends on member states to enforce its orders. The ICC's prosecutor's office in the Hague said it would have no comment. Abdel Attie didn't respond to questions about guarantees from Chad for the president's safety. But he indicated that the mutual benefits Sudan and Chad get out of the end of hostilities agreement overcomes the desire to arrest of Mr al Bashir. "I don't think (either) country will breach this agreement," he said, adding that there are now joint Sudanese-Chadian military units patrolling the borders. The arrest warrant "is not a subject to discuss between the two countries." Mr Keppler said the political deal between Chad and Sudan was "no justification for shielding alleged war criminals." Chad previously denied entry to the leader of a major Darfur rebel group into its territories. According to the joint agreement, both countries have to stop providing operational ground for each other's rebel groups. * Associated Press