The Turkish government should reject efforts by Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir to secure a suspension of the International Criminal Court's investigation against him, Human Rights Watch said in a letter today. Turkey should also convey a clear message that Khartoum must not respond to the investigation with retaliation against civilians, peacekeepers, or humanitarian workers.
President Bashir will be in Turkey for the Turkish-African Summit on August 19-20, 2008. Human Rights Watch expressed concern that Turkey chose to welcome al-Bashir, who is currently subject to a request for a warrant at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, and whose armed forces continue to carry out attacks on civilians in Darfur.
Since the announcement of the warrant request, the Sudanese government has launched a diplomatic campaign to persuade the United Nations Security Council to suspend the investigation. The government has also suggested that it will respond to a warrant by retaliating against civilians and peacekeepers in Darfur.
Human Rights Watch said that the Turkish government should reject any calls for a suspension of the ICC's investigation in Darfur, as such a suspension is unjustified and has dangerous implications for the situation in Darfur and international justice as a whole.
"The Sudanese government remains responsible for massive atrocities in Darfur," said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "To suspend the ICC investigation in response to Khartoum's outrageous threats and empty promises would be to betray the victims in Darfur."
There has been no improvement in the situation on the ground in Darfur, nor in the behavior of the Sudanese government, that would in any way justify such a suspension at this time. To suspend the investigation in response to threats from the Sudanese government would be entirely inappropriate and could set a dangerous precedent. It indicates that those responsible for international crimes can use threats to secure the Security Council's assistance in ensuring their impunity.
Human Rights Watch asked the Turkish government to reinforce this message in its statement to the UN General Assembly in New York in September.