26 March 2017

Sudan: HRW to Jordan - Bar Entry or Arrest Sudan's Al-Bashir

Photo: Morgan Mbabazi/The East African
Sudanese President Omar al Bashir at a State function in Uganda. African Union leaders have consistently refused to enforce an ICC arrest warrant against the Sudanese leader.

Amman — Human Rights Watch (HRW) said today that Jordan should deny entry to Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir or arrest him if he enters the country. Al-Bashir has been invited to visit Jordan on March 29, 2017, to attend the 28th summit of the Arab League, news reports say.

In a statement on the organisation's website, HRW points out that Al-Bashir has been a fugitive from the International Criminal Court (ICC) since 2009. He is the subject of two ICC arrest warrants, issued in 2009 and 2010, related to his alleged role in Sudan's abusive counterinsurgency campaign in Darfur. The charges are for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

'Jordan would be defying its international obligations as an ICC member if it allows Al-Bashir to visit without arresting him...'

"Jordan would be defying its international obligations as an ICC member if it allows Al-Bashir to visit without arresting him," said Elise Keppler, associate international justice director at HRW. "Welcoming an ICC fugitive would undermine the Jordanian government's recent efforts to strengthen the country's rule of law."

A visit by Al-Bashir would be the first time Jordan had welcomed an ICC fugitive, the statements says. It reports that HRW has written to Jordanian authorities about the potential visit but have yet to receive a response.

Jordan's King Abdullah II in February accepted sweeping recommendations by a royal committee to reform the country's criminal justice system. If carried out, these measures would be a major step for human rights in Jordan. But a failure by Jordan to uphold its international obligations as a party to the Rome Statue of the ICC would be at odds with these efforts, HRW said.

Allowing Al-Bashir's visit would also be a reversal of Jordan's historical support for the ICC. In 2015, Ahmed Al-Mufleh, Jordan's ambassador to The Hague, said that Jordan "will continue to confirm its support of the International Criminal Court because of its firm conviction over the essential role of the court in achieving international justice and halting impunity from punishment."

"Jordan is not the first country to face a possible Al-Bashir visit," said Keppler. "But most ICC members have avoided letting him in."

Since 2009, some ICC members, such as Botswana and Denmark, have affirmatively signalled that Al-Bashir risked arrest if he entered their territory, and he has not travelled there. Others have relocated or rescheduled meetings or asked Sudan to send other representatives.

However, several African Union countries defy the ICC travel ban, or refuse to arrest Al-Bashir. In June 2015, a visit by Al-Bashir to South Africa caused a political crisis - and friction with the ICC - when Al-Bashir left the country in defiance of a High Court Order for him to be detained pending an investigation. It is widely believed that his fight was facilitated by the cadres of South African President Jacob Zuma.

In 2013, a charter aircraft carrying Al-Bashir and a delegation of Ministers to the Iranian capital Tehran to attend the inauguration ceremony of Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, was denied over-flight rights by Saudi Arabian authorities and forced to return to Khartoum.

In 2012, Malawi opted to relocate an African Union summit in light of the AU's insistence that Al-Bashir should be allowed to attend the meeting if it took place in Malawi as scheduled. In October 2010, an international development meeting scheduled for Kenya was relocated to Ethiopia to avoid a visit by Al-Bashir. In other instances, Al-Bashir cancelled anticipated visits - to Central African Republic and Zambia - amid calls for his arrest.

"As an ICC suspect, the Sudanese president should appear before the ICC, where he would receive the full range of protections under international law for people accused of crimes," the statement says.

"Jordan's government has a chance to demonstrate its credibility on accountability and support for justice for victims of mass atrocities by avoiding an Al-Bashir visit," Keppler said. "Al-Bashir belongs in The Hague appearing before the ICC."

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