20 September 2013

Sudan: Activists Ask Obama to Block Sudan President Al Bashir's UN Visit

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

Washington DC — In an open letter addressed to President Barak Obama at the White House in Washington, actors George Clooney, Don Cheadle and Mia Farrow and other human rights activists have called on the US President to do everything in his power to prevent Sudan's President Omar Al Bashir from attending the UN General Assembly.

The letter on Thursday is in response to news that the Sudanese President, who has been indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court ICC in The Hague and is subject to international arrest warrants, has applied for a US visa in order to attend the UN General Assembly in New York next week. Al Bashir's application has been confirmed by Washington, but the US State Department has been tight-lipped on its status.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said on Thursday that "there are a variety of considerations in play with respect to President Bashir's visa request, including the outstanding warrant for his arrest." However she did not provide further details.

As previously reported by Radio Dabanga, the ICC Judges have called on the USA to arrest Al Bashir should he set foot on US soil. However, as the USA is not a member of the ICC, the country would not be legally bound to cooperate. The United States also has a special agreement that allows leaders of UN member states to attend the General Assembly. The letter offers suggestions to overcome these legal hurdles.

"Our immigration laws prohibit admitting perpetrators of genocide and extrajudicial killings into our country, and it is unprecedented for someone wanted by the International Criminal Court for the crime of genocide to travel to the USA. While we recognize that the U.S. government is obliged to facilitate President Bashir's visit under the UN Headquarters Agreement, we urge you to do everything in your power to prevent the trip," the activists' letter states.

"We deeply appreciate that the administration has already publicly voiced concerns about this proposed trip and write to suggest additional steps that could dissuade President Bashir from persisting with his travel plans. The administration should consider announcing that, if President Bashir lands in New York, the US Department of Justice will explore filing a criminal case against him under 18 USC 1091. This law, which codifies the Genocide Accountability Act of 2007, allows for anyone present in the United States to be prosecuted for genocide, even if their crimes were committed abroad. By publicly raising the threat of such a prosecution and the specter that President Bashir's privileges and immunities may not extend to genocidal acts, your administration would make an important statement about the US government's commitment to atrocity prevention and accountability."

The United Nations says that up to 300,000 people have died since the conflict erupted in 2003, but Khartoum rejects that figure.

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