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President Bashir to flout ICC arrest warrant with visit to Chad

July 20 - 2010 KHARTOUM

The government of Sudan said on Tuesday that President Omar Al Bashir will travel to Chad on Wednesday. It would be the first visit by Bashir to a country that is a State Party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which is seeking Bashir’s arrest. Bashir traveled abroad extensively after the first arrest warrant for war crimes and crimes against humanity issued by the ICC in March 2009. He visited Eritrea, Ethiopia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Libya. However, these countries did not have treaty obligations to the ICC. Since the additional warrant for three counts of genocide issued on 12 July 2010, Bashir has not traveled internationally.

Citing ‘presidential sources’, Reuters news agency reported that Bashir will attend the summit of the Sahel-Saharan states and remain in Chad for three days. The move would be risky because Chadian authorities would be under international pressure to detain the Sudanese leader on behalf of the ICC. The judges of the international court say that there are reasonable grounds to believe that Bashir is complicit in acts of genocide committed against the Zaghawa, Fur and Masalit ethnicities. Under the Rome Statute governing the court, it is the responsibility of the signatories of the treaty to carry out an arrest warrant. Should Bashir visit Ndjamena, Chad would consequently be obligated by law to arrest him, though the Sudanese president likely did not agree to visit without assurances that this will not happen. Chad earlier this year dramatically improved its relations with Sudan. This presidential visit would mirror one by Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno to Khartoum in February, a visit that marked the culmination of negotiations to normalize relations between the two countries and end support to rebel forces in one another's territories. In the past, Bashir has abruptly canceled travel plans to other countries that are supporters of the ICC, including Uganda and South Africa. The Sahel-Saharan summit will take place Thursday and Friday. On Tuesday, the Chadian president welcomed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. The two met for several minutes at the Ndjamena airport, according to a statement issued by the Chadian presidency. Gaddafi has now taken Deby's place as host of Khalil Ibrahim, the rebel chief of Darfur's most militarily powerful faction.

Photo: Bashir and Deby at a landmark meeting in Khartoum in February 2010, marking the end of years of hostility between their two countries (Sudan News Agency).

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