Rights group urges India not to welcome Sudanese president

Nairobi, Oct 20 (IANS) India should not welcome Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, 21 international and African NGOs said on Tuesday.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has warrants out for his arrest to face charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Darfur, Human Rights Watch quoted these groups as saying.

India has invited al-Bashir and other African heads of state to attend the India-Africa Forum Summit from October 26 to 29 in New Delhi.

“Al-Bashir is an alleged war criminal on the run from the law,” said Oby Nwankwo, steering committee member at the Nigerian Coalition of the ICC. “Hosting al-Bashir would tarnish India’s global standing and be an affront to the victims.”

Al-Bashir faces two ICC arrest warrants, issued in 2009 and 2010 over attacks that systematically targeted civilians in violation of international law as part of the Sudan government’s counterinsurgency policy in Darfur.

The attacks have led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people to refugee camps in Chad and to camps for internally displaced people in Darfur.

India, which has not joined the ICC, is not bound by the treaty that establishes the court to cooperate. But the UN Security Council has urged every country to cooperate with the Darfur cases.

Security Council Resolution 1593 of 2005, which referred the situation in Darfur to the ICC, “urges all States and concerned regional and other international organisations to cooperate fully” in the ICC investigation.

“Many countries have avoided a visit from al-Bashir, and India should do the same,” said Elise Keppler, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch.

“India has said that it wants to play a leadership role on global issues, and this is an opportunity to be on the right side of history.”

Activists across Africa have campaigned for al-Bashir’s surrender, and his movements have been restricted.

Trips to ICC member countries have been cancelled or curtailed, including to Kenya, Malawi, Zambia, Central African Republic and Nigeria. Countries such as Botswana have made clear he is not welcome.

Trips to countries that have not joined the ICC have also been cancelled, including Turkey, Malaysia and Indonesia. In some instances, governments have invited Sudan to send other representatives.

In June 2015, al-Bashir travelled to South Africa amid diplomatic and public outcry. A domestic court issued an order that barred his movement, but he nevertheless left the country.

The visit remains the subject of litigation in South Africa and before the ICC.

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