Dear Secretary Clinton:
We write with regard to the upcoming presidential inauguration of Omar al-Bashir, scheduled for May 27, 2010, and to express our strong view that no diplomatic representative of the United States government should attend the inauguration.
As you know, President al-Bashir is subject to an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in March 2009 on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for atrocities committed in Darfur. Attendance at his inauguration would as a result be wholly inconsistent with the United States' consistently expressed commitment to justice for crimes in Darfur and its role as a permanent member of the United Nations (UN) Security Council, which referred Darfur to the ICC.
We believe the United States should not attend meetings or events with al-Bashir unless absolutely essential. An inauguration is a ceremonial event that cannot be justified as an essential meeting. Al-Bashir would likely view-and portray-attendance by the US and other nations at an event dedicated to celebrating his continued rule as president of Sudan as a diplomatic victory and gesture of respect by the international community. The United States has rightly sought to deny al-Bashir the legitimacy that comes with such symbolic acts of recognition given the arrest warrant against him; that policy should continue. US policy on this matter should be at least as strong as that of the United Nations, which has standing guidelines that state: "[t]he presence of UN representatives in any ceremonial or similar occasion with [persons indicted by international criminal courts] should be avoided."
Finally, attending the inauguration would send a terrible message to victims of international crimes not only in Darfur, but globally, that their suffering is being disregarded.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter.
International Justice Director
Acting Africa Director