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Rights Group Critical of Zambian Invitation to Indicted Sudanese Leader

  • Peter Clottey

Sudan President Omar Hassan al-Bashir

Sudan President Omar Hassan al-Bashir

An official of Human Rights Watch (HRW) has expressed concern that Zambian President Rupiah Banda has invited indicted Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir to participate in a regional conference scheduled for 15th December.

Reed Brody, spokesman for the rights organization, told VOA a majority of human rights groups across Africa have expressed displeasure over the invitation.

“We are hoping that this report is not correct and, if it is, we are hoping that the president of Zambia will eventually think better of it.”

Sudan local media reported that President Banda officially invited Mr. Bashir Monday to participate in a special summit of the international conference on the Great Lakes Region.

But, several rights groups have criticized the Zambian leader for the invitation, since the southern African country is a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which issued the warrants against the Sudanese leader.

“Zambia is a state party to the ICC (and), if (Mr.) Bashir went to Zambia, it will have a legal obligation to cooperate with the court and arrest President Bashir and turn him over (to the ICC). But, it also has a moral obligation to the victims of Darfur who were seeking justice. It is very important that the leaders stand up not for the oppressors, but for the victims, for those who are seeking to bring wrongdoers to justice,” said Brody.

The ICC has two international arrest warrants against Mr. Bashir, who stands accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity against the people in the western Darfur region of Sudan.

Brody said Zambia is obliged under the Rome Statute to enforce the arrest warrants against the Sudanese leader.

The African Union (AU) said it will not cooperate with the ICC indictment of President Bashir saying the arrest warrants will compromise peace efforts to resolve the ongoing crisis in Darfur.

“The African Union has taken a position against the arrest warrants but, of course, that doesn’t override these countries’ legal obligations as state parties to the Rome Statutes. South Africa, Botswana have recently confirmed that, despite the AU’s resolution, they remain committed and engaged by their responsibilities as state parties to the Rome Statute,” said Brody.