25 February 2014

Sudan's Bashir in DRC Amid Calls for His Arrest

Kinshasa — A group of activists have urged the Congolese authorities to ensure the arrest of the Sudanese President, wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Darfur.

President Omer Al-Bashir is reportedly in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to attend the 17th Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) summit taking place in the capital, Kinshasa.

"Congo as an ICC member has an obligation to arrest and transfer President Al-Bashir to The Hague, where he is wanted for crimes against humanity and war crimes," said Georges Kapiamba, president of the Kinshasa-based Congolese Association for Access to Justice.

Under the ICC's Rome Statute, however, all member countries, including Congo, have an obligation to cooperate with Bashir's arrest; yet similar calls for the apprehension of the Sudanese leader have in past years been unsuccessful.

Although the African Union has called on its member not to cooperate with the ICC, countries like Malawi, South Africa, Kenya and Zambia have avoided hosting the Sudanese leader.

Descartes Mpongo, the executive secretary of Christian Activists Actions for Human Rights in Shabunda of the DRC, said, "Having long worked closely with the ICC, Congo should demonstrate that it stands on the side of Darfuri victims, and arrest Al-Bashir."

Elise Keppler, an associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch described the Sudanese leader as "a fugitive from justice who belongs in one place only: The Hague."

"Since Congo didn't prevent al-Bashir's visit, they should take the next step and arrest him," added Klepper.

Sources say that European Union (EU) and US officials will boycott their attendance of the COMESA summit in protest.

Currently chaired by Uganda's Yoweri Museveni, the COMESA meeting will reportedly deliberate the status of the implementation of the COMESA free trade area, progress on the Implementation of the COMESA Customs Union and COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Agenda.

Also expected to dominate discussions at the two-day event are issues like peace and security, infrastructure programmes, agriculture and the environment.

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