Baroness Catherine Ashton
High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
Commission Vice-President
European Union

Dear High Representative,

We are writing in regard to your public statement of March 11, 2010, on the deployment of the European Union Election Observation Mission and the April elections in Sudan. Specifically, we note with concern the absence of any reference to the outstanding arrest warrant for Sudanese president and presidential candidate Omar al-Bashir in that statement or the restatement of the EU's position on the International Criminal Court (ICC). 

We recognize that the Election Observation Mission in Sudan faces a complex and difficult landscape in which to work and that President al-Bashir and his ruling party are deeply opposed to the ICC. At the same time, we believe the European Union's engagement in the elections represents both an opportunity and a responsibility to raise the need for President al-Bashir to appear in The Hague.

As you well know, the EU regularly denounces Sudan's failure to cooperate with the ICC's investigations and to execute pending arrest warrants, and calls on Khartoum to comply with its obligations under Security Council resolution 1593. In June 2008, the EU foreign affairs ministers and the EU heads of government and state publicly pledged that they would consider "additional measures" against those responsible for this non-cooperation.[1] Since then, almost two years have elapsed and Sudan is still obstructing the work of the ICC and justice for the victims of grave international crimes in Darfur.

Failing to maintain the EU's public line on the ICC and Sudan's non-cooperation with the court in the context of the upcoming elections sends a terrible message to victims that their suffering is being ignored, and gives the impression that the EU's commitment to justice for horrific crimes has changed. Indeed, silence with regard to the ICC arrest warrant for al-Bashir in EU public and private communications about the elections is tacit acquiescence to total obstruction by the Sudanese government of the ICC's efforts to date. It gives the appearance that the EU's position is contrary to its member states' obligations under the Rome Statute and the EU common position on the ICC.

In addition, public discussion of the ICC warrant during the elections is a powerful indicator of the extent to which freedom of expression is protected during the elections. Indeed, journalists and human rights defenders in Sudan have in the past been harassed for statements and work related to justice and the ICC. The Sudanese government has pledged its commitment to the right to freedom of expression and other rights during the election period, so it is important that this commitment be assessed in its application, especially on sensitive issues.

We strongly hope that the absence of reference to the ICC's arrest warrant for President al-Bashir does not reflect a broader practice of EU communications about the elections, including about the work of the Election Observation Mission, and that your office will convey relevant messages on the ICC both publicly and privately while managing other challenges that arise.

We look forward to discussing this with your staff and will contact your office to request a meeting.

Sincerely,

Lotte Leicht
EU Director

Georgette Gagnon
Africa Director

Richard Dicker
International Justice Program Director  


[1] General Affairs and External Relations Council Conclusions on Sudan, 16 June 2008; EU Summit conclusions on Sudan, 19/20 June 2008.