President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan has crisscrossed the Arab and African world recently in a bald-faced attempt to show strength after the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for his arrest for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.
He chose Egypt, Eritrea and Libya as his first ports of call, then made his way to Qatar for the Arab League summit. These countries are among the minority of the world's nations that have not joined the International Criminal Court. Unlike the close to 110 that have joined, these governments have no legal obligation to arrest him on the court's behalf. They would do well to remember, though, that the Security Council has expressly urged even states that are not part of the court to cooperate.
These countries and others that might open their doors Bashir might want to reconsider. Not only is he an accused war criminal, but in retaliation for the warrant, his government threatened the lives of Sudan's most vulnerable.
Within hours after the I.C.C. announced its warrant, 13 key relief organizations that were supplying food and water to 1.1 million people and medical care to 1.5 million were ousted from Sudan. Bashir is not someone who should be welcomed, but someone who should be held to account.
We can expect that someday he will face trial. When former presidents Charles Taylor of Liberia and Slobodan Milosevic of Yugoslavia were indicted for war crimes while sitting as heads of states, nobody expected to see them in court. But that is what happened. International justice has increasingly shown that no one is above the law.
The U.N. Security Council could suspend his case, but suspension will only encourage further abuses.
The priority for both the Arab League and the African Union should be to press Sudan to readmit the aid groups. This would help ensure that the victims of atrocities in Darfur are not further victimized. This would also make a far better headline than Bashir boarding yet another plane.
Elise Keppler, New York Senior counsel with the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch