News / Africa

Chad Declines to Arrest Visiting President of Sudan Omar Al-Bashir

Critics say Chad, as a signatory to the International Criminal Court, is obligated to detain him

Chad's ambassador to the US says that his country will ignore calls by the International Criminal Court to arrest Sudan’s President Omar Al-Bashir.  The ICC has charged him with genocide and crimes against humanity in his role as commander-in-chief during the guerrilla war in Darfur, which began in 2003.

Sudan’s head of state is in N’jamena this week attending a regional conference of Sahelian nations.

Ambassador Ahmat Mahamat Bachir says that it would be wrong for Chad to invite Sudan’s head of state, only to arrest him.

Chad Declines to Arrest Visiting President of Sudan Omar Al-Bashir
Chad Declines to Arrest Visiting President of Sudan Omar Al-Bashir

Human Right Watch says Chad has an obligation as a signatory of the ICC to arrest him.  Keppler, senior counsel for HRW’s International Justice Program,  said failure to do so would give N’jamena the “shameful distinction of being the first ICC member state to harbor a suspected war criminal from the court.”

Ambassador Ahmat calls that an “unfortunate characterization.”  He says his country has been the first to host thousands of refugees from the conflict in neighboring Darfur.

“We have thousands of people who are suffering and our country has become a victim….. It’s more important to provide security to thousands of people than running after one person,”  he says.

Chad and Sudan were adversaries until early this year when they signed a peace agreement.  Both countries have accused each other of harboring rebels trying to oust the governments in Khartoum and Ndjamena.

Ambassador Ahmat says that his country made peace with Sudan.

“We just took the advice of the international community to normalize relations with Sudan,” he says.  “We signed agreements in February this year, and my president visited Khartoum two times.”

Ahmat says that even though  his country was a signatory to the ICC, it would defer to the position of the African Union regarding this matter. The AU has repeatedly dismissed efforts to arrest Al-Bashir.

Today, AU chairman Jean Ping told reporters in Kampala that the organization’s position was to try and work out a long term solution to the Darfur issue. He said that the indictments do not promote a workable solution to the Sudan problems:  "We have to find a way for these entities to work together and not go back to war."

The United Nations says fighting and related violence in Darfur has killed 300,000 people and displaced more than 2.7 million.  Sudan puts the death toll at 10,000

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