Sudan's embattled President Omar Hassan
al-Bashir is in Qatar's capital, Doha ahead of an Arab Summit scheduled to
begin today despite an arrest warrant against him issued by the International
Criminal Court (ICC). The summit, however, is expected to support President
Bashir officially over the ICC-issued directive despite deep divisions in the
Arab world over the indictment. Some political observers believe Qatar will not
enforce the arrest warrant since it is not a signatory to the ICC charter
establishing the court. The Hague-based international court issued the arrest warrant
after Bashir was accused of masterminding war crimes in Darfur.
is the editor of the Middle East Times newspaper. He tells reporter Peter
Clottey that President Bashir's presence tarnishes the significance of the Arab
is going to be an interesting meeting, especially given the fact that the
Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon is going to be
present at this meeting. And he will attend this Monday's session in the
presence of Mr. Bashir, and that is going to be an embarrassing moment for Ban
Ki-moon. Other than that, I think the Arab League seems to be divided, nothing
new in this sense over the issue of Bashir. Some are supporting him, others are
not. What's interesting is Mubarak (Egypt's president) is not going to attend
this meeting, although he had hosted Bashir a few days ago," Salhani noted.
He said the motivations
behind the support of Bashir over the ICC arrest warrant could be attributed to
several reasons including noncooperation.
"It seems that some are
making a stance and some are saying like Colonel Gaddafi of Libya for example
said that this is an attempt by west to re-colonize their former colonies. He
has always got something interesting to say, and he called it a practice of
first-world terrorism. So this is a sign of defiance, I guess. On the one hand,
I think Qatar is in a peculiar situation, where as the host of this meeting, it
would have been hard for them to say no to President Bashir. But on the other
hand, Qatar is not a signatory. They haven't signed a charter, which obliges
member states to arrest those indicted once they land on their territory. So
they get off the hook that way," he said.
Salhani said if an Arab
League member country has not signed the charter establishing the ICC, it is
under no obligation to enforce the arrest warrant against Sudan's President
"First of all they have to
be signatories of the charter. I don't think all of them are. So it depends on
if they have signed the declaration of the charter. Then they are obliged by
international law to abide by the ruling and to arrest those indicted by the
International Criminal Court. But as long as they haven't signed, it's up to
the individual leader of that country to decide whether he wants to follow the
international ruling or not. He is under no international obligation to do so,"
Salhani pointed out.
He said President Bashir's
presence will undermine the importance of the Arab summit in Doha.
"In a way it is disadvantage
that Mr. Bashir is going to be in Qatar because he is going to take away some
of the spotlight on the real issues, and I'm not saying this is not important.
But I'm saying for the Arab world, there are some much more urgent matters that
they need to discuss and focus on rather than the presence or not of one
particular man. Because the presence of President Bashir is not going to change
anything in global geo-politics, whereas decisions made on the ground there can
change things in the Middle East," he said.
is Bashir's fourth international trip after the ICC issued an arrest warrant
against him accusing
him of being the brain behind the massacre of Darfuris in the troubled Darfur
region. He arrived in Qatar Sunday, after visits to neighboring Egypt, Eritrea,
and Libya last week.
Some in the Arab world
including Libya's leader Muammar Gaddafi have sharply denounced the arrest
warrant, describing it as an orchestration by western countries to re-colonize
the Middle East and adding that it amounts to first-world terrorism.
Experts believe that up to
300-thousand people have died and 2.7 million driven from their homes in the
Darfur conflict since 2003. According to the joint UN- African Union
peacekeeping mission, currently around 15-thousand strong is deployed in
Darfur, but its forces remain under-equipped, and it has been attacked by
The United Nations and humanitarian workers
say Sudan's order to expel the 13 aid groups, including Oxfam GB and CARE
International punches a giant hole in the safety net that has kept many Darfur
civilians alive during six years of war in the vast, arid region of western
The ICC accuses Bashir of leading a
counterinsurgency against Darfur rebels that involves rapes, killings, and
other atrocities against civilians. Bashir rejects the charges and refuses to
deal with the ICC. Arab and African countries are pressing the UN Security
Council to defer any prosecution for at least a year, hoping to defuse the
crisis. They contend that the move will worsen conditions on the ground and put in
jeopardy the lives of people living in Darfur.
Khartoum expelled 13 of the
largest aid groups operating in Darfur as part of its defiant response to the
International Criminal Court's decision to issue an arrest warrant. The Bashir
government accuses the agencies of working closely with the ICC.