JODY CLARKE in Nairobi
CHAD SHOULD arrest Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir and hand him over to the International Criminal Court (ICC), human rights groups and the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs Baroness Catherine Ashton said yesterday.
Sudan’s president arrived in Chad on Wednesday, on his first trip to a full member state of the International Criminal Court, which is demanding his arrest for genocide and crimes against humanity.
Omar Al Bashir landed in the capital N’Djamena where he was greeted by the country’s President Idriss Déby. But Chad said it was under no obligation to arrest him despite being a signatory of the Rome Statute that binds members to honour arrest warrants issued by the court.
He will be attending a summit of the Sahel-Saharan states in the country.
The EU foreign policy chief “urges Chad to respect its obligations under international law to arrest and surrender those indicted by the ICC,” Baroness Ashton’s spokeswoman, Maja Kocijancic, said.
Adding that Baroness Ashton was “concerned” by al-Bashir’s visit, the spokeswoman said that supporters of the ICC had an obligation to carry out arrest warrants.
In a report released on Wednesday, Elise Keppler at the international justice programme with Human Rights Watch, said “Chad risks the shameful distinction of being the first ICC member state to harbour a suspected war criminal from the court. Chad should not flout its obligations to arrest al-Bashir if he enters Chad.”
Last week, the ICC added genocide to the list of charges against al-Bashir for his alleged role in a five-year campaign of violence in the Sudanese state of Darfur.
The original warrant, issued in 2009, was the first against a head of state. It included five counts of crimes against humanity, including murder, torture and rape. It also included two charges of war crimes for pillaging and directing attacks against civilians.
Chad and Sudan have long accused each other of supporting rebels in one another’s countries, but there has been a recent thawing in relations.
“If he is not arrested this will send out a bad message in the region,” said Saad Adoum, a senior analyst on Central Africa with the International Crisis Group in Nairobi. “The ICC relies on states to carry out arrests but this will mean a loss in authority for the court if they do not fulfil their obligations.”