17 September 2013

Sudan: U.S. Hints It Will Approve Visa Request By Sudan's Bashir

Photo: AlJazeera
Sudanese president Omar al Bashir arrives in the southern capital of Juba.

Khartoum — The Sudanese government hit back at statements by U.S. officials condemning a bid by president Omer Hassan al-Bashir to travel to New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meetings this month.

The Sudanese government on Tuesday confirmed what US State department officials announced as a visa application by Bashir to enter the country.

The move by Bashir to seek entry drew rebuke by US officials who called on him to answer charges first at the International Criminal Court (ICC) which indicted him in 2009 and 2010 on ten counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in connection with the decade-long conflict in Sudan's western region of Darfur.

"Such a trip would be deplorable, cynical and hugely inappropriate. We would suggest that given that he is under those chargers, and that the ICC has indicted him, again, on genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity charges that it would be more appropriate for him to present himself to the ICC and travel to The Hague," US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power told reporters yesterday.

The US State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf refused to say whether the visa request will be granted when queried by reporters on Monday.

However a senior State Department official today hinted in an interview with Reuters that Bashir would end up being issued a visa saying that the Sudanese leader "not receive a warm welcome" if he were to travel to the UN meeting.

"I am not going to speak to the specifics of this case, but typically as a host nation the United States is generally obligated to admit foreign nationals, but visas broadly speaking can be restricted," the unnamed official added.

The Sudanese Foreign Ministry on Tuesday issued a statement accusing Washington of protecting Israel and violators of human rights and directing the ICC to indict African leaders who are democratically elected by their people.

"The US government is not qualified morally, politically and legally to offer sermons and advice regarding respect of international humanitarian law and human rights, in the background of its [US's] known record in committing war crimes and genocide against peoples. The last of these [war crimes] was the war in Iraq in 20003 and the killing of more than one million Iraqis after it [the US] sought to mislead the world with intentional lies, as a number of its former officials have revealed," Sudan foreign ministry spokesman Abu-Bakr al-Sideeg said.

"The US government is also the protector and supporter of the biggest violator of human rights and [worst] perpetrator of crimes against humanity and war crimes, the worst ever in the world, which is Israel. [The US] does not even allow issuance of condemnation by the UN Security Council against its number one ally, Israel. It has in several times stood against the will of the whole world to condemn Israel's inhuman practices," he added.

The spokesman noted that the US is not a member of the ICC and that it signed bilateral agreements with ICC member states to exclude its citizens from being tried by the Hague-based court.

"It [the US] also did not allow the issuance of the UNSC Number 1593 of 2005 to refer the Darfur issue to the ICC until after a clear provision was included that protects its citizens from falling under the jurisdiction of that resolution," al-Sideeg said.

"Therefore, it is a ridiculous thing for the US Administration to use the ICC issue, which it opposes, as a pretext to criticize entry visa request of the president of the republic" the Sudanese diplomat explained.

He demanded that a visa be issued to Bashir "as soon as possible" and stressed that the visit will be to the UN headquarters and not to the host country adding that the US does not have any legal right to object to the participation of any official of any country with full membership in the international organization.

The statement disclosed that Bashir wants to participate in the forum of African leaders in New York on the sidelines of the General Assembly at the invitation of the Obsanjo Foundation.

In New York, the UN Secretary General said the decision on whether to grant a visa to Bashir rests fully with the US but called on the Sudanese president to answer to charges leveled against him.

"The question of whether the United States is to grant President Bashir a visa to allow him to attend the general debate is, first and foremost, a matter for the United States to determine consistent with the applicable rules of international law," said UN spokesman Martin Nesirky according to Agence France Presse (AFP).

"President Bashir is subject to an arrest warrant issued by the ICC. The secretary general would therefore urge him to cooperate fully with the ICC," the spokesman added.

In the past the US has criticized countries like China for receiving Bashir and last June Larry André, Director of the Office of the Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan at the U.S. State Department told US lawmakers that the Obama administration is working to press countries to refrain from receiving with Sudanese official wanted by the ICC.

"We just recently communicated to quite a number of our embassies where we think that some of those indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) may travel; language for them to use with the government, their host government to make certain that it is well understood our opposition to that travel. We continue to have a policy of not meeting or conducting business with those individuals who have been indicted" he said.

The Sudanese president trip to the US will have to be carefully planned to avoid flying through countries that are ICC members which would effectively cover most of Europe.

Since his indictment, Bashir has seen his travel difficulties mount even to non-ICC members.

In July, Bashir's reportedly "fled" Nigeria where he was scheduled to take part in a regional summit over a case filed in a local court by the Nigeria Coalition on the International Criminal Court (NCICC) to compel the government to arrest him.

Last month, Saudi Arabia barred his plane from crossing its airspace en route to Iran but Riyadh denied that the decision was politically motivated.

A similar situation occurred in June 2011 when Turkmenistan and Tajikistan refused to give permission to Bashir's plane in order to reach China where he was to start a state visit. As a result he was forced to return to Tehran where he was attending a summit there and decide on a new route to reach Beijing.

The ICC Assembly of States Parties President Ambassador Tiina Intelmann issued send in a message sent to state parties that they have an obligation to arrest and surrender Bashir if he passed through their territory.

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