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Sudan’s Bashir heads to Chad as African rights groups call for his arrest

February 14, 2013 (KHARTOUM) – Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir will fly to Chad on Friday to attend the Community of Sahel-Saharan (CEN-SAD) summit, state media reported.

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Chad president Idriss Deby walks with Sudan’s president Omer Hassan al-Bashir (R) after arriving at Khartoum Airport 7 February 2013. (REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah)

Sudan’s official news agency (SUNA) said that Bashir will be accompanied on the two-day visit by presidential affairs minister Bakri Hassan Saleh, foreign minister Ali Karti and minister of Environment and Forestry Hassan Abdel-Gadir Hilal.

SUNA did not confirm whether Bashir will travel to Libya afterwards as reported earlier this week by the state-linked Sudanese Media Centre (SMC) to attend celebrations commemorating the outbreak of the revolution that toppled the regime of late leader Muammar Gaddafi.

This will be Bashir’s third visit to Chad, which is a signatory to the Rome Statute, the founding document of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Bashir has been wanted by the Hague-based court since 2009 on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region.

African countries rallied behind Bashir and issued resolutions stating that they will not cooperate with the ICC in apprehending the Sudanese leader even if Bashir visits countries which have ratified the Rome Statue.

This has enabled Bashir to visit African ICC signatories such as Kenya, Djibouti and Chad without incident.

During Chad’s thorny relations with Sudan, president Idriss Deby vowed at one point to execute the arrest warrant against Bashir, rejecting African Union (AU) resolutions granting him immunity. However, as relations improved Deby reversed his position.

The AU summit that took place in Addis Ababa last month omitted the usual mention of urging its members to ignore the ICC warrant against Bashir.

Close to 100 human rights groups and law societies across Africa signed a letter addressed to the Chadian president urging him to honour his country’s obligations to the ICC.

“Permitting president al-Bashir to visit Chad without executing these warrants would run counter to Chad’s obligations as a state party to the Rome Statute of the ICC, in particular Articles 86 and 89(1). It would also send damaging signals to victims of mass atrocities in Darfur and globally, and undermine Chad’s credibility on issues of justice and accountability,” said the letter seen by Sudan Tribune.

“[W]e urge the Chadian government to clearly affirm its commitment to cooperate with the ICC, as states such as South Africa, Uganda and Botswana and Malawi have already done, and [to] clarify that should president al-Bashir enter Chad, he will be arrested. This would be an important way to demonstrate respect for victims of the crimes committed, along with Chad’s commitment to end impunity”.

Similarly, the president of the ICC Assembly of State Parties, Tiina Intelmann, transmitted a demarche to ambassadors of Chad in New York and in Brussels today, urging Chad to cooperate with the ICC. She also wrote a letter to Chad’s foreign minister, Moussa Faki Mahmat.

Bashir also accepted an invitation by Deby to another summit taking place on 11 March 11 in Ndjamena, known as “Africa’s Green Belt”, the privately-owned Al-Shorooq TV said.

(ST)