ICC requests Belarus to ‘arrest and surrender Sudan’s Al Bashir’
The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague has issued an official request to the Republic of Belarus for “cooperation in the arrest and surrender” of Sudan’s President Omar Al Bashir, who is scheduled to begin an official visit to Minsk on Sunday.
Informed sources reported last week that President Al Bashir, accompanied by a delegation of Ministers, is to visit Belarus, billed as ‘Europe’s last dictatorship’, from December 9 to 11. Al Bashir has been indicted by the ICC for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide, and two separate international warrants for his arrest were issued in 2009 and 2010.
While Belarus is not a state party to the Rome Statute under which the ICC operates, as a member of the United Nations, the Minsk government is obliged to cooperate with the Court. Whether Belarus will in fact comply with the ICC request is unlikely, especially as the two countries signed a ‘friendship and cooperation agreement’ in January this year, during a visit by the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, to Khartoum.
Belarus has been a major supplier of armaments, aircraft, and rockets to Sudan, a military cooperation protocol has existed between Minsk and Khartoum since 2006, and the Sudanese government opened an Embassy in Minsk in December 2017.
The dictatorial regime in Minsk has caused Belarus to be isolated in its own region, and is viewed as a pariah by the rest of Europe. In February 2016, the European Union lifted a raft of sanctions against Belarus imposed since 2004, including asset freezes and travel bans against 170 individuals including President Lukashenko, despite ongoing concerns about political repression and human rights abuses.
Speaking in Khartoum in January, Lukashenko said: “It is great that over the past years the relations between the two states have been advanced to a brand-new level. Sudan has become one of the most important partners on the African continent for us.”
In clear defiance of the international community, Lukashenko said: “Belarus pursues an independent foreign policy taking into account its national interests rather than the instructions of the global power centres… We are in favour of non-interference in the internal affairs and the acknowledgement of different development paths.”
The international ICC arrest warrants have severely curtailed the ability of Al Bashir to travel freely. 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 the Sudanese president. 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 North Gauteng High Court Order for him to be detained pending an investigation. It is widely believed that his fight was facilitated by the cadres of the since deposed 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 the indicted Sudanese president 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.
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