Letter to President Rupiah Banda
His Excellency Hon. Rupiah Banda
President of the Republic of Zambia
We, the undersigned organizations, are seriously concerned over reports of a possible visit to Zambia by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir - sought by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of crimes committed in Darfur - to attend the Special Summit of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region to be held on December 15 in Lusaka.
President al-Bashir is subject to two arrest warrants issued by the ICC for atrocities committed in Darfur, Sudan. He is charged with having committed war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Authorizing President al-Bashir to visit Zambia without executing these warrants would be a failure on the part of Zambia to uphold its obligations as a party to the International Criminal Court. It would also send damaging signals to victims of mass atrocity in Darfur and globally, and undermine Zambia's credibility on issues of justice.
As a party to the Rome Statute, Zambia is obliged to cooperate with the court, including through the execution of arrest warrants. The Zambian government recently participated in a session of the Assembly of States Parties to the ICC, during which official statements and discussions included focus on strengthening state cooperation with the court and avoiding situations of non-cooperation, including visits by President al-Bashir. This year, the Zambian government also attended the International Criminal Court's Review Conference, which took place in Kampala, Uganda from May 31 to June 11. At the conference, Zambia submitted a concrete pledge to the court to take steps to ratify the Agreement on Privileges and Immunities of the ICC.
Some officials have cited an African Union (AU) decision calling for non-cooperation in the arrest of President al-Bashir as grounds for welcoming him into their territory without arrest. However, such action would still constitute a failure to uphold Zambia's obligations as a state party to the ICC. Moreover, an AU decision on the ICC at the Union's most recent summit in July recognizes the need for ICC members to balance AU obligations with commitments under the court's Rome Statute.
Recent events have displayed resolve on the part of states to uphold their obligations under the ICC treaty and to avoid situations of non-cooperation with the Court. President al-Bashir cancelled a scheduled trip to the Central African Republic for independence celebrations in Bangui this month amid calls for his arrest, and President al-Bashir's anticipated travel to Kenya was forestalled in October with the relocation of an Intergovernmental Authority on Development meeting from Nairobi to Addis Ababa. These events strongly indicate that, as a suspected war criminal, he is not a welcome guest and should be arrested so that he can face justice before the International Criminal Court.
For all of these reasons, we urge the Zambian government to clearly affirm its commitment to cooperate with the ICC, as states such as South Africa, Uganda, and Botswana have done, and clarify that President al-Bashir will be arrested should he enter Zambia. This will be an important show of respect for victims of atrocities in Darfur, as well as a demonstration of Zambia's commitment to end impunity.
Action of Christian Activists for Human Rights in Shabunda, South Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
African Development and Peace Initiative, Adjumani, Uganda
Association for Human Rights and the Penitentiary World, Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo
Association of the Shipowners on Lake Kivu, South Kivu, DRC
Burundi Coalition for the International Criminal Court, Bujumbura, Burundi
Caritas Zambia, Lusaka, Zambia
The Center for Research on Environment, Democracy and Human Rights, Goma, DRC
Children Education Society, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Coalition for the International Criminal Court, Cotonou, Benin
Congolese Coalition for Transitional Justice, Bukavu, DRC
DITSHWANELO - The Botswana Centre for Human Rights, Gaborone, Botswana
East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, Kampala, Uganda
Group on Research and Action against Marginalisation in the Kivus, DRC
Human Rights Network - Uganda, Kampala, Uganda
Human Rights Watch, Johannesburg, South Africa
International Crime in Africa Programme, Institute for Security Studies, Pretoria, South Africa
Ivoirian Coalition for the International Criminal Court, Abidjan, Ivory Coast
Jesuit Center for Theological Reflection, Lusaka, Zambia
Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists, Nairobi, Kenya
Legal Resources Foundation, Lusaka, Zambia
Liberia Coalition for the International Criminal Court, Monrovia, Liberia
Organisation of Victims of Hissène Habré's Regime, Chad
Southern African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes, Zambia
Southern Africa Development Community Lawyers Association, Gaborone, Botswana
Southern Africa Litigation Center, Johannesburg, South Africa
Synergy of Women for Victims of Sexual Violence, North Kivu, DRC
Uganda Coalition for the International Criminal Court, Kampala, Uganda
VISION Humanitaire Mondiale, DRC
West African Bar Association, Lagos, Nigeria
Zambia Civic Education Association, Lusaka, Zambia
The signatories are members of an informal network of African civil society organizations and international organizations with a presence in Africa who have been working on Africa and the International Criminal Court.
List of signatories updated December 17, 2010.