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A coalition of human rights groups is calling on Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashire when he comes to Nigeria this Thursday, October 29 to attend an African Union-sponsored talks on the crisis in Sudan's Darfur region.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued an arrest warrant for the Sudanese president for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Oby Nwankwo, the representative for Africa on the International Coalition for the ICC, said Nigeria must honor its international legal obligation to arrest Mr. Bashir.
"We know that Nigeria is a state party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. And by signing on to that statute, Nigeria has committed to support the court and support all its actions. You are also aware that just recently Nigeria was elected as a non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council," she said.
If the Sudanese president is allowed to attend this week's AU summit, Nigeria would have been the first signatory to the ICC statute that Bashir would have visited since the arrest warrant was issued.<!-- IMAGE -->
An unnamed Nigerian government source was quoted as saying it is unlikely that Nigeria will arrest Mr. Bashir, after all, the source reportedly said, the Sudanese president would be the guest of the African Union.
Nwankwo said Nigerians are worried that if this happens it would affect the credibility of Nigeria not just as a nation but also as a member of the U.N. Security Council.
The African Union said last July it would disregard the ICC arrest warrant against Mr. al-Bashir because the ICC ignored the AU request for the arrest warrant to be deferred for one year.
Nwankwo said the AU position is not supported by all member countries.
"I'm aware of the AU position, and I'm aware that that position is not supported by all the AU members, especially the members that are state parties to the statute," Nwankwo said.
Former South African President Thabo Mbeki, who heads the AU Panel on Darfur is expected to submit a report on the Darfur crisis at the Nigeria summit.
"I'm aware of the statement put out when al-Bashir was planning to come to South Africa; I'm aware of the statement that Botswana put out saying if he comes they will arrest. So I don't know why Nigeria should be inviting him," Nwankwo said.
She said public opinion in Nigeria is against the Sudanese president coming to Nigeria.
"I think Bashir will be right in considering whether he should come or not because general opinion in Nigeria is that he should not come. So I don't know what is going to happen, but I'm telling you because we work with the people that the generality of the public, the media the civil society they are saying it will not be okay," she said.
Nwankwo said the rights groups will call a news conference Monday to tell the Nigerian government that it should listen to the people who elected it by not allowing President al-Bashir to come to Nigeria.<!-- IMAGE -->