Sudan leader set to address U.N. despite Darfur indictment
Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir is facing two International Criminal Court indictments for crimes linked to the conflict in the western Darfur region of Sudan.
The Associated Press
UNITED NATIONS — If he shows up as scheduled, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir will set an uncomfortable precedent when he speaks before the U.N. General Assembly.
He would be the first head of state to address the annual U.N. gathering of world leaders while facing international war-crimes and genocide charges.
Al-Bashir is facing two International Criminal Court indictments for crimes linked to the conflict in the western Darfur region of Sudan, where an estimated 300,000 people have died since 2003. He has applied for a U.S. visa to attend the U.N. General Assembly and is scheduled to speak Thursday.
The U.S. government has made it clear it does not want al-Bashir to show up in New York.
“Such a trip would be deplorable, cynical and hugely inappropriate,” said Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
But under a U.S. treaty with the United Nations dating to 1947, the U.S. is obligated to issue the visa as the world body’s host country. The United States has never banned a visiting head of state who wants to speak to the United Nations.
State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf sidestepped a question about whether al-Bashir could be arrested if he comes to the U.S. “There are a variety of considerations in play with respect to President Bashir’s visa request, including the outstanding warrant for his arrest,” Harf said Friday. “But we’re not going to sort through these considerations publicly.”
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon joined the United States in repeating that al-Bashir is wanted for genocide and war crimes and should cooperate with the International Criminal Court.
Elise Keppler, a Sudan expert with Human Rights Watch, said Friday that al-Bashir would be met in New York with angry protests from demonstrators, and could be putting himself in legal jeopardy. “The key here is that this is an unprecedented situation,” she said. “There hasn’t been clear legal ruling on this set of circumstances.”
Human Rights lawyers have in the past 20 years used the U.S. Alien Tort Act to file civil suits by Americans or foreigners against foreign nationals who come into the country after committing human-rights abuses abroad.
Al-Bashir’s motives for coming to the General Assembly, where he will be shunned by most other world leaders, are unclear. But he has tested the limits of travel under the ICC indictment before, attending an African Union summit in Nigeria in July. He swiftly returned home after protests against his visit erupted and lawsuits were filed.