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Human Rights Watch urges Tunisia to bar or arrest Sudan’s Al Bashir

March 27 - 2019 NEW YORK
Sudan's President Omar Al Bashir (File photo: SUNA)
Sudan's President Omar Al Bashir (File photo: SUNA)

Tunisia should bar entry to or arrest Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir, who intends to attend the League of Arab States summit in Tunisia next week, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said today.

The summit will be held in Tunis on March 31. Al Bashir is sought on two  International Criminal Court (ICC) warrants for alleged genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur, and Tunisia is a signatory to the Rome Convention under which the ICC operates.

“Tunisia should demonstrate its commitment to international justice by barring President Al Bashir or arresting him if he sets foot in the country,” said Elise Keppler, associate international justice director at US-based HRW. “Al Bashir is an international fugitive who should be in The Hague to face the charges against him, not attending summits hosted by ICC members.”

A visit by Al Bashir would be the first time Tunisia had allowed an ICC fugitive on its territory since it joined the court in 2011. Allowing Al Bashir to visit without arrest would be a reversal of Tunisia’s commitment to support and cooperate with the ICC under the court’s Rome Statute, according to HRW.

Rome statute

At the ICC’s annual meeting of member countries in December 2018, Tunisia’s ambassador in The Hague expressed, “the firm commitment of Tunisia to the Rome Statute and unwavering support for the fight against impunity of the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community.”

While some ICC members have allowed Al Bashir on their territory, others have avoided such visits under their obligation to cooperate with the ICC, including by relocating or rescheduling meetings or asking Sudan to send other representatives to meetings. ICC members should urge Tunisia to take such action, Human Rights Watch said.

“The ICC relies on its member states like Tunisia for cooperation in the surrender of suspects to be effective,” Keppler said. “Darfur victims, hundreds of thousands of whom have lived in refugee or displaced persons camps for well over a decade, deserve to see Al Bashir face justice at long last,” Keppler’s statement concludes.

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