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Amnesty International Calls on Arab League States to Make Human Rights Priority at Sirte Summit

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Joe DeCapua

The League of Arab States holds a summit Saturday in Sirte, Libya, and a human rights group is calling on members to make respect for human rights a top priority at the meeting.

Amnesty International says human rights and international humanitarian law should be a “cornerstone” of the summit deliberations – especially regarding regional conflicts in Sudan, Somalia and Yemen; and between Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

Rania Rajji, Amnesty’s researcher on Sudan, says, “Our concern is the continuing situation in Sudan in terms of the human rights violations that have been taking place over the last two years, really, which are more and more increasing at the hands of the national security.”

She says the coming elections could create a climate “that would only “enhance these human rights violations.”  

The alleged violations include mass unlawful detentions, with people being held incommunicado, and extra-judicial killings.

Arrest warrant

The League of Arab States has rejected the arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC).  The warrant accuses him of war crimes and crimes against humanity relating to the Darfur conflict in Western Sudan.

“We are asking the league to reverse its position and really we are asking for the member states to abide with their…obligations under international law.  The human rights violations that have been taking place in Sudan are contrary to Sudan’s human rights obligations, as well as other states,” she says.

Amnesty says human rights violators “should be brought to justice.”

“We are really encouraging justice mechanisms to be in place at all levels.  Of course the International Criminal court has [precedence] over crimes that have been committed in Darfur and over the arrest warrants that are carried out against President Bashir and three other people,” she says.

The accused should surrender, Rajji says, adding that they have the option under the Rome Statute to have their trials held in Sudan.  But she says impartial courts need to be in place and legislation passed to lift any immunity they may have against prosecution.  She says the legislation should also bar immunity for any security personnel accused of human rights violations.

Somalia

On Somalia, Amnesty is calling on Arab League states to end all supplies of weapons, military equipment and related financial aid to the Transitional Federal Government until mechanisms are in put in place to ensure they are not used to commit human rights violations.  

Amnesty also says all parties in the Somali conflict accused of grave human rights abuses should be brought to justice.  It also wants member states to respect the UN arms embargo on Somalia.  

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