Fugitive from Justice for Darfur Atrocities Should be at the ICC
September 18, 2013
If al-Bashir turns up at the UN General Assembly, it will be a brazen challenge to Security Council efforts to promote justice for crimes in Darfur. The last thing the UN needs is a visit by an ICC fugitive.
Elise Keppler, associate international justice program director

(New York) – United Nations Security Council members and other UN member countries should publicly oppose attendance at the UN General Assembly by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for serious crimes committed in Darfur. Governments should also make clear that if al-Bashir does visit, they will not have any dealings with him nor take part in any events in which he is participating.  

US government officials have said that al-Bashir has applied for a visa to attend the UN General Assembly, which is scheduled to hold its general debate from September 24 to October 2, 2013. He is subject to two arrest warrants by the ICC for crimes in Darfur – one for genocide and another for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The ICC opened an investigation after the Security Council referred the Darfur situation to the court in Resolution 1593 in March 2005.

“If al-Bashir turns up at the UN General Assembly, it will be a brazen challenge to Security Council efforts to promote justice for crimes in Darfur,” said Elise Keppler, associate international justice program director at Human Rights Watch. “The last thing the UN needs is a visit by an ICC fugitive.”

A visit by al-Bashir would be the first to the UN or the United States by someone subject to an ICC arrest warrant. Many countries, including ICC members and non-members, have avoided anticipated visits by al-Bashir by encouraging him to send other Sudanese government representatives, rescheduling or relocating meetings, or cancelling his visits. They include South Africa, Malaysia, Zambia, Turkey, Central African Republic, Kenya, and Malawi.

The US has condemned al-Bashir’s potential General Assembly visit. On September 16, the US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, called it “deplorable, cynical and hugely inappropriate.”

Human Rights Watch urged all UN member countries, in responding to Bashir’s anticipated travel to the UN, to consider the possible international legal implications.ICC member countries are obligated under the ICC Statute to cooperate with the ICC in arrest of suspects. Security Council Resolution 1593, which refers the situation in Darfur to the ICC, also “urges all States and concerned regional and other international organizations to cooperate fully”with the court.  The Genocide Convention of 1949 in article 4 provides that “[p]ersons committing genocide … shall be punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals.”

Security Council Resolution 1593 requires Sudan to cooperate with the ICC. The Security Council has not adequately followed up a Security Council presidential statement in 2008 urging Sudan to cooperate with the court to ensure that Sudan is adhering to Resolution 1593.

Human rights activists and nongovernmental groups – especially in Africa – have consistently rallied against travel by al-Bashir and for his surrender to the ICC. Most recently, the Nigerian Coalition for the ICC filed a lawsuit in Nigeria when al-Bashir unexpectedly traveled to the country to attend an African Union conference. Public condemnation of al-Bashir’s visit doubtlessly contributed to his abrupt departure.

“Al-Bashir belongs only in one place – the ICC – to face charges of heinous crimes committed in Darfur,” Keppler said. “Darfur victims deserve to see him there, not in the halls of the United Nations.”