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November 29, 2010

Rights Group Criticizes CAR Invite to Sudan’s Bashir

by Peter Clottey

A spokesman for Human Rights Watch (HRW) has expressed concern that Central African Republic (CAR) has invited Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir to participate in its 50th anniversary independence celebrations Wednesday.

Reed Brody told VOA his rights group is disappointed the government in Bangui has refused to enforce the international arrest warrants against Mr. Bashir, who is charged with committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“We have been in touch with the human rights organizations in the CAR and, obviously, we are all very concerned and, as a state party to the ICC (International Criminal Court), the Central African Republic has an obligation to help the ICC in the execution of the arrest warrants,” said Brody.

“The Central African Republic in particular is a country that has called for ICC intervention and is benefiting from the ICC’s investigations into atrocities committed in CAR in 2002-2003. So, it is particularly disappointing that the CAR would ignore the arrest warrants against (Mr.) Bashir.”

Critics say, despite the international arrest warrants against the embattled Sudanese leader, President François Bozizé’s government invited Mr. Bashir to participate in that country’s independence celebrations.

But, supporters of the CAR administration said the invitation is part of an effort to promote good neighborliness, as well as strengthen diplomatic ties between Bangui and Khartoum.

Mr. Bashir’s visit to CAR will be his third to a country that is a signatory to the Rome Statute, which established The Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC). Chad and Kenya are the other two countries Mr. Bashir recently visited that are members of the ICC.

Brody said his group will continue working with other human rights organizations in CAR to increase the pressure on the government to uphold the ICC arrest warrants against Mr. Bashir.

“I think, in fact, it overshadows the importance of the Central African Republic’s ceremony. It will take away all of the other news. The news of the day will be that (Mr.) Omar Al-Bashir, who is wanted by the international community for war crimes in Darfur, has walked in and out of Central African Republic. It’s sad for international justice (and) is also sad for the CAR.”