By Lara Kajs
As Uganda swears in its leader for a fifth term, one of the many inaugural attendees is Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir - the only sitting president with an outstanding arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court.
Bashir is wanted for five counts of crimes against humanity, including murder, extermination, forcible transfer, torture and rape, as well as two counts of war crimes and three counts of genocide, during his campaign to crush a revolt in western Darfur. Bashir is responsible for the deaths of more than 300,000 civilians and the displacement of at least three million.
In March 2016, Bashir travelled to Indonesia to attend an Organization of Islamic Co-operations Summit. Although Indonesia is not a signatory to the International Criminal Court, it is still obligated under the Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol I of the United Nations to adhere to the warrant and arrest Bashir.
Indonesia held a different position and defended its decision to allow the Sudanese President safe haven in the country to attend the summit. Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry Arrmanatha Nasir said pointedly, “It is a matter between him and the ICC, not the question of Indonesia.” Furthermore, it is the position of the government that it has the flexibility as to whether or not it chooses to exercise adherence to the Geneva Convention.
Bashir’s visit to Indonesia was not the first time he evaded arrest. In June 2015, he visited South Africa to attend the African Union Summit. As a signatory to the Rome Statute, South Africa was obligated to execute the warrant for Bashir’s arrest.
Bashir left South Africa while the courts argued over whether they should uphold the warrant and detain the leader. While in the end parliament decided that Bashir should be apprehended, he absconded in a private jet before the arrest could be made. He once again avoided arrest during a visit to China in September 2015 to celebrate the anniversary of the end of World War II. The Chinese refused to detain Bashir.
While the U.S. is also not a signatory to the Rome Statute, it does support the efforts of the ICC to hold accountable without impunity, individuals responsible for crimes against humanity in Darfur – even the sitting head of state. Uganda, on the other hand, Is a signatory to the Rome Statute and it is obligated to detain Bashir and to hand him over to the International Criminal Court for prosecution.
It is only a matter of time
Unfortunately, the warrant issued by the International Criminal Court in 2009 has not been executed largely due to the fact that he has not been arrested and turned over to the court. In fact, Bashir has made 76 trips to 23 countries since the ICC issued the arrest warrant. As long as countries are willing to play host to Bashir and offer him the ability to carry on with impunity, it is likely that his many victims will not get their day in court to see justice finally served.
Omar al-Bashir is not above the law and the only way he is going to be brought to justice and forced to pay for his crimes is if any country he visits refuses to allow him sanctuary, follows the law and hands him over to the ICC.
Featured Image: Sudan President Omar al-Bashir attends the African Union Summit Image by: Siphiwe Sibeko (Reuters).