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‘India must arrest Sudan’s Al Bashir’: ICC

October 28 - 2015 THE HAGUE
President Omar Al Bashir (Eskinder Debebe-UN)
President Omar Al Bashir (Eskinder Debebe-UN)

The International Criminal Court (ICC) says that India should arrest and hand over Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir, who is expected to arrive in New Delhi today to attend an India-Africa Summit.

The Sudanese president has been indicted on five counts of crimes against humanity, two counts of war crimes, and three counts of genocide in his campaign to crush the rebellion in Darfur. The Hague-based tribunal issued warrants for his arrest in 2009 and 2010.

The UN estimates that more than 300,000 people have been killed in the conflict that has forced some 2.5 million people to flee their homes, a figure contested by Khartoum.

The 71-year-old President is expected to arrive in New Delhi today, along with at least 40 other African leaders, to attend the India-Africa Summit aimed at boosting mutual trade and investment.

“Although India is not an ICC signatory, New Delhi should act and arrest him, because the UN Security Council has lifted Al Bashir’s immunity under international law and urged all states to fully cooperate with the ICC,” said the office of ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.

“As states ponder over such matters, it is fundamentally important not to forget the victims who deserve justice for the unimaginable atrocities they have suffered,” Bensouda’s office told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by email late on Monday.

“By arresting and surrendering ICC suspects, India can contribute to the important goal of ending impunity for the world’s worst crimes.”

Indian officials were not immediately available for comment, but Foreign Ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup told local media that “India is fully compliant with its international legal obligations”. On Friday, he told the New Indian Express that India is not a member of Rome Statute and therefore does not need to abide by its directives.

ICC member states

Al Bashir has visited six ICC member states since his indictments without being apprehended.

In 2010, Al Bashir attended the promulgation of the Kenyan Constitution, an incident that angered activists. The following year, Kenya’s High Court issued orders to arrest him if he set foot in the country again. The decision was appealed by the Kenyan government, but not before Al Bashir warned that no flights destined to Kenya would be allowed to use Sudanese airspace.

The last time the ICC asked a country to arrest and hand over the indicted president, was in June this year, when he visited South Africa, a signatory to the ICC. South Africa, and its President Jacob Zuma, were fiercely criticised for allowing the indicted president to leave an AU summit, defying a ruling by its own High Court ordering his detention.

Trade talks

President Al Bashir is expected to hold bilateral talks with a number of presidents in New Delhi. He is accompanied by his Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Ibrahim Ghandour.

India is the second largest exporter to Sudan after China, selling chemicals, pharmaceuticals, machinery, as well as iron and steel. Several Indian oil, gas, and construction firms operate in Sudan. Total bilateral Indo-Sudanese trade surged to $1.4 billion in 2014/15, from $327 million in 2005/06, according to data from India’s Foreign Ministry.

Last week the Sudanese ambassador to India urged India to consider using its Rupee for bilateral trade in Africa to circumvent US sanctions imposed on Sudan.

(Sources: Thomson Reuters Foundation, New Indian Express)

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