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Sudan Seeks US Visa for President al-Bashir

  • James Butty

FILE - Sudan President Omar al-Bashir. President Bashir has been invited by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to attend the General Assembly in September.

FILE - Sudan President Omar al-Bashir. President Bashir has been invited by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to attend the General Assembly in September.

The Sudan government hopes the Obama administration will grant a visa to President Omar al-Bashir to attend this year’s United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Information Minister Ahmed Bilal said President Bashir has been invited by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to attend the General Assembly in September. He said the United States is obligated, as host of the United Nations, to grant a visa to President Bashir.

“In fact, actually, the last time he applied for the visa, but it was not granted. But now he got an invitation, and we think he should be granted the visa because the United States is hosting the international organization and we have to attend the activities of this organization. We shouldn’t be prohibited for any reason. And that’s why our president applied, and we think it is very fair to be granted a visa. If he has been granted a visa, he will come,” he said.

Last week, Bashir attended the fifth inauguration of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in Kampala. The U.S. delegation walked out after Museveni called the International Criminal Court “a bunch of useless people” and said he no longer supports the court.

“We believe that walking out in protest is an appropriate reaction to a head of state mocking efforts to ensure accountability for victims of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, particularly when his country has committed to accountability as a state party to the Rome Statute,” said State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau.

Bashir has been indicted by the ICC for war crimes he allegedly committed in Sudan’s Darfur region where it has been estimated at least 300,000 people have been killed and two million displaced.

ICC Prosecutor Fatour Bensouda Thursday sent a letter to the Ugandan government requesting an explanation for why it refused to arrest Bashir during his Kampala visit.

Uganda, as a signatory to the Rome Statue under which the ICC was created, is obligated to arrest anyone wanted by the ICC.

Bilal said Sudan does not recognize the authority of the ICC and an increasing number of African countries are distancing themselves from what he called the “bad reputation” of the ICC.

“It is a court for the black people, not for the white people because the measures being taken by the ICC is a double standard, and it is meant specifically toward African leaders. We don’t care about ICC anymore because now there is almost 90 percent of African leaders against the ICC,” Bilal said.

While it has been a strong advocate of international criminal justice, the United States has refused to subject U.S. citizens to the jurisdiction of the ICC, even going so far as to threaten the use of military force to “free members of the armed forces of the United States detained by the ICC”, according to the American Service Members Protection Act of 2002. U.S. officials have said American armed forces personnel would be a target for retribution because of the unique role the United States plays in global security.

Bilal said even if the United States were a signatory to the ICC, it could not arrest President Bashir while he’s attending the U.N. General Assembly.

“Absolutely no because the USA is not a partner in the ICC; they didn’t sign, and they are not actually complying with the rules of the ICC. Like Sudan, we didn’t sign, and American soldiers are exempted because of the veto from ICC laws. It’s only the weak; it’s only the blacks who are being indicted,” Bilal said.

He said Sudan, as a member of the United Nations, has every right to attend the General Assembly in New York.

“It is our right to actually attend the activities of the U.N., and America should not at all speak about arresting the president because they are not a member [of the ICC], and even if they are member, the president is not coming for America; he’s coming for the U.N.,” Bilal said.

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