Bashir defies ICC with Chad trip

2010-07-21 19:03

N'Djamena - Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir arrived in Chad on Wednesday, his first visit to a full member state of the International Criminal Court since it demanded his arrest for genocide.

Bashir was indicted by the ICC for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur last year.

This month the court added genocide to the charges, accusing him of presiding over rape, torture and murder in the remote west of Sudan.

The ICC said that as a member state Chad was obliged to arrest Bashir.

"The main element concerning Chad and all other member states is to implement judges' decisions and cooperate with a request for arrest," ICC representative Fadi El Abdallah said in The Hague as Bashir touched down in N'Djamena.

Bashir was greeted by Chadian President Idriss Deby on his first trip abroad since the genocide warrant.

Since his initial indictment, Bashir has made several trips abroad in defiance of the court.

As a member of the ICC, Chad would normally be obliged to arrest a wanted man like Bashir.

But it is not expected to do so in this case because the African Union has urged its members not to seize Bashir, and relations between Sudan and Chad have improved.

Propaganda triumph

New York-based Human Rights Watch urged Chad to arrest Deby.

"Chad risks the shameful distinction of being the first ICC member state to harbour a suspected war criminal from the court," said Elise Keppler, International Justice Programme senior counsel at Human Rights Watch.

The ICC has no police force and relies on member states to arrest fugitives.

A successful visit to a full ICC member state just days after the genocide warrant would be a propaganda triumph for Bashir over the court and expose its weakness in arresting fugitives.

A junior minister and a Darfur militia leader are also wanted by the court but Khartoum has refused to hand them over.

Three Darfur rebels also wanted by the ICC all surrendered to The Hague-based court.

Khartoum signed the Rome Statute which formed the ICC but never ratified the treaty and refuses to recognise its authority.

The African Union has accused the court of targeting the continent and recommended Africa not cooperate with the ICC.

Relations between Chad and Sudan have been tumultuous since Darfur rebels, many of whom belong to Deby's Zaghawa tribe, took up arms in early 2003 accusing Khartoum of neglecting the arid region.

But this year the neighbours signed an agreement to stop supporting each others' insurgents, jointly patrol the long and porous border and reopen diplomatic relations.

Bashir supported Deby's 1990 coup to take power.

"If there was one percent of a doubt about Deby we would never let Bashir go," one source in Sudan's presidency told Reuters before Bashir's departure.

Bashir is due to attend a regional summit in N'Djamena, presidential sources said.

Sudan expelled two of the most prominent Chadian rebel leaders, Mahamat Nouri and Timan Erdimi, on Tuesday, seen as a final concession to cement good relations ahead of the visit.

Read more on:    omar al-bashir  |  idriss deby  |  sudan  |  chad  |  east africa  |  central africa
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