25 September 2013

Sudanese President Will Not Fly to U.S. for UN General Assembly Meetings

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

Khartoum — The Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir has cancelled his planned trip to the United States thus averting an awkward an embarrassing situation to the United Nations and the Obama administration alike.

For the first time since the International Criminal Court (ICC) charged him with war crimes and genocide four years ago in connection with Darfur conflict, Bashir announced that he is seeking to attend this year's session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) meetings.

The US swiftly decried Bashir's visa application but declined to say whether it will reject it. Under the 1947 UN headquarters request, the US is obligated to promptly issue visas for officials seeking to participate in UN events except under very limited circumstances related to national security.

But the US State department disclosed that the ICC arrest warrant will be considered when assessing Bashir's visa request.

The US is not a member of the ICC and as such has no legal obligation to execute the warrants.

The ICC Pre-Trial chamber, in a decision issued last week, said it had "... invited the competent US authorities to arrest Omar Al Bashir and surrender him to the Court, in the event he enters their territory."

But Bashir at a press conference on Sunday night challenged the US to deny him entry or arrest him adding that his flight and lodging plans for New York have already been made.

"Those people [US government] we put them in a corner... .We [can] go to the US and no one can do anything to us because there is no law in America that affords US authorities the right to take any action against me because it is not a member of the Rome Statute. "Attending the [UN] General Assembly [meeting] is our right" the Sudanese president told reporters.

However, a source told Sudan Tribune on Wednesday that as of today Bashir has yet to receive his US visa.

The Sudanese leader was placed on the speakers list for the UNGA session on Thursday but today the UN confirmed that Bashir will not be coming.

"Protocol has now confirmed that Sudan has cancelled President Bashir's appearance at the General Assembly," a UN spokesman, Jerome Bernard, told Agence France Presse (AFP).

The spokesman said that Sudan's Foreign Minister Ali Karti would now address the assembly on Friday.

"We understand he is not coming and we're glad he's not coming," Christian Wenaweser, the U.N. ambassador of Liechtenstein and former president of the Assembly of ICC States Parties told the Washington Post.

"We think it would have been bad for the United Nations to host someone who has been issued and international arrest warrant" Wenaweser added.

The Washington Post said the cancellation followed several days of diplomatic efforts by the US to convince Bashir not to come to the United States, warning that it could not guarantee he would not be subject to arrest, according to U.N. based diplomats.

This week UN officials speaking to Foreign Policy Magazine expressed serious doubts about whether Bashir would actually venture in a high-risk trip across the Atlantic.

Since the arrest warrants. Bashir was forced to cancel appearances in several regional and international events. In some cases his plane was denied passage through airspace of Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia and Tajikistan.

Last 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.

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