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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 September 2018

International court criticises Jordan for not arresting Sudanese leader

Despite two international arrest warrants against him, Omar Al Bashir was allowed into Jordan to attend an Arab league summit

Jordan's King Abdullah II and Sudan's President Omar Al Bashir during a reception ceremony at Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, Jordan March 28, 2017. Muhammad Hamed / REUTERS
Jordan's King Abdullah II and Sudan's President Omar Al Bashir during a reception ceremony at Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, Jordan March 28, 2017. Muhammad Hamed / REUTERS

The Jordanian government is reviewing a decision by the International Criminal court to refer Jordan to the UN Security Council for failing to arrest Sudanese president Omar Al Bashir when he visited the country earlier this year.

Mohammad Al Kayed, spokesman for the foreign ministry said the ICC decision “discriminates against Jordan" and "is based on loopholes".

He added: "It does not take into consideration the fact that the Sudanese president enjoys immunity under international law."

Mr Al Bashir attended an Arab League summit in Jordan in March. It was the first time that a person wanted by the ICC had entered the country. The court issued two arrest warrants against Mr Al Bashir in 2009 and 2010 for his role in alleged crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of genocide committed between 2003 and 2008.

As a party to the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the ICC, Jordan is legally required to co-operate with the court in arresting and transferring indicted people.

In March, Human Rights Watch called on Jordan to either refuse Mr Al Bashir entry or arrest him and said the country would be going against its international obligation as a member of the court if it allowed Mr Al Bashir into the country without arresting him.

“Welcoming an ICC fugitive would undermine the Jordanian government’s recent efforts to strengthen the country’s rule of law," said Elise Keppler, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein also criticised Jordan for allowing Mr Al Bashir into the country.

"All states must abide by their treaty obligations. In that context, I very much regret that Jordan, a state party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, received the president of Sudan, against whom an arrest warrant has been issued,” he said. “By doing so, it is failing the ICC and weakening the global struggle against impunity, and for justice.”

But the ICC’s decision to report Jordan to the UN has sparked criticism and conspiracy theories. One of them is that the ICC's move was prompted by the fury seen across Jordan in reaction to the Trump administration’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Zaki Bani Irshaid, the secretary general of the Islamic Action Front called the move "suspicious."

He said, "The decision was taken with malicious intent and was not innocent. We will not succumb or give up… let the court try Netanyahu, the murderer, the criminal, the terrorist Netanyahu who killed women and children.”

Asma Khader, a Jordanian lawyer, and a former government official and human rights activist, said she supports criminal justice but that it should be applied equally on ICC members.

“If Jordan had arrested him then [in March], I would have supported that move,” she said. “But why did the ICC take a decision now? It came as Jordan has taken a strong position against Trump’s move to recognise Jerusalem as the capital for the occupation. It has politicised the issue and it sets a precedent, since other countries who are members of the ICC have also allowed him entry but no measure was taken against them."

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