Al-Bashir is expected to travel to Chad today, to attend the Greenbelt Conference of the Community of Sahel-Saharan States, according to news reports. The Sudanese president is not attending the presidential inauguration in Kenya, as some earlier media accounts suggested he would do. Al-Bashir is sought by the International Criminal Court (ICC), accused of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes committed in Sudan’s Darfur region.
“Chad took a step in the right direction when it avoided President al-Bashir’s visit in March,” said Elise Keppler, senior international justice counsel at Human Rights Watch. “Al-Bashir is sought on charges for heinous crimes in Darfur. He should be arrested, not welcomed.”
Chad is the only ICC member country that has allowed al-Bashir to visit multiple times since the arrest warrant was issued in 2009. In March, Chad postponed the Greenbelt Conference to April amid diplomatic and public outcry over al-Bashir’s anticipated fourth visit to Chad to attend.
As an ICC member, Chad is obligated to cooperate in securing the surrender of those wanted by the court. Other African ICC members – including South Africa, Malawi, Botswana, Central African Republic, and Zambia–have made clear that al-Bashir will be arrested on their territory, or have cancelled anticipated visits by al-Bashir to their countries.
Djibouti, Malawi, and Kenya are the only other African ICC members to have allowed al-Bashir on their territory without arresting him since the warrant was issued. However, Malawi and Kenya have avoided return visits by relocating to Ethiopia conferences al-Bashir was scheduled to attend in their countries.
The Chadian government has contended that in welcoming al-Bashir, it is abiding by a decision of the African Union (AU) calling for African governments not to cooperate in his arrest. As a matter of international law, however, AU decisions cannot negate Chad’s obligations as an ICC member, Human Rights Watch said.
African civil society has protested travel by al-Bashir to the territory of ICC countries and called for al-Bashir to be arrested for trial by the ICC. The ICC’s judges have found that Chad has failed to cooperate with the court in allowing al-Bashir on its territory without arrest.
“Activists across Africa have repeatedly called for African governments to surrender al-Bashir to the ICC,” Keppler said. “Governments should stand with Darfur’s victims and ensure that al-Bashir faces justice.”