The EU-LAS Summit is scheduled to take place from 24-25 February 2019 in Egypt. The Sudanese president is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of criminal responsibility for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur, Sudan.
“The European Union should signal clearly that it will not defy its commitment to justice for victims and the International Criminal Court by co-hosting a summit that al-Bashir attends,” said Lotte Leicht, European Union Director at Human Rights Watch. “Al-Bashir belongs in The Hague facing the charges against him – not at a summit co-hosted by the EU. The ICC is dependent on cooperation and support to prosecute suspects.”
President al-Bashir is subject to two outstanding arrest warrants issued by the ICC, in 2009 and 2010. In authorizing the arrest warrants for al-Bashir, ICC judges agreed that there are reasonable grounds to believe al-Bashir is responsible for the alleged crimes.
Al-Bashir’s travel and attendance at meetings abroad has been an ongoing concern and EU member states have never allowed al-Bashir on their territories since he became subject to the ICC arrest warrants. The EU has also avoided situations in which al-Bashir attends summits where the EU is a host or co-host.
The crisis in Darfur started in 2003 when the Sudanese government and allied militias allegedly committed crimes against humanity and war crimes, including sexual violence, as part of a counterinsurgency campaign. The United Nations estimates that at least 300,000 people may have been killed in attacks or died of conflict-induced starvation and disease, and more than 2 million people were forced to flee to refugee or internally displaced people’s camps.
In 2005, in Resolution 1593, the UN Security Council referred the situation in Darfur to the ICC for investigation. There are outstanding charges against al-Bashir and four other people for alleged atrocities committed in Darfur, but Sudan continues to defy its obligations under the resolution to cooperate with the court.
“Victims in Darfur have yearned for justice for more than 13 years in the face of obstruction to the ICC’s investigation in Darfur by President al-Bashir,” said Mossaad Mohamed Ali, African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies Executive Director and Darfuri human rights activist. “We need the EU to press for al-Bashir to appear in The Hague and make clear they will not stand by as he attends EU co-hosted events.”
All EU member states are also parties to the Rome Statute of the ICC – the treaty that created the Court – which requires member states’ cooperation for the arrest of suspects.
The EU has adopted a Decision on the ICC, one of the very few legally binding EU decisions on foreign policy. The Decision affirms EU support for the ICC and its commitment to support cooperation with the ICC and ensure the Court’s effective functioning. The decision restates the EU’s conviction that justice for these crimes is essential to preserve peace and international security.
In July 2018, the EU also adopted Council Conclusions on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the ICC’s Rome Statute. In those conclusions, the Council resolved to promote cooperation with the ICC, including on the execution of arrest warrants.
“The EU has a clear policy commitment in support of the ICC and cooperation to ensure the arrest of suspects,” said William R. Pace, Convenor of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court. “The EU would undermine its credibility and commitments by co-hosting an event attended by Omar al-Bashir.”
While some non-EU members, such as South Africa and Jordan, have allowed al-Bashir on their territories, a number of other countries have made clear al-Bashir is not welcome.
In 2012, Malawi opted to relocate an African Union summit in light of the AU’s insistence that al-Bashir should be allowed to attend the meeting if it took place in Malawi as scheduled. In October 2010, an international development meeting scheduled in Kenya was relocated to Ethiopia to avoid a visit by al-Bashir. In other instances, al-Bashir cancelled anticipated visits – to the Central African Republic and Zambia – amid calls for his arrest.
As a person subject to ICC arrest warrants, the Sudanese president should appear before the ICC, where he would receive the full range of protections under international law for people accused of crimes. “In recent years, the EU’s policies toward the Middle East and North Africa region have been a betrayal of European values,” said Bahey eldin Hassan, General Director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies. The EU should uphold its own obligations under international law and refrain from acts that would assist alleged perpetrators of international crimes. The EU should help advance justice for grave crimes, especially when our own governments fail to do so.”
About the ICC
The ICC is the world’s first permanent international court to have jurisdiction over war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Central to the Court’s mandate is the principle of complementarity, which holds that the Court will only intervene if national legal systems are unable or unwilling to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
There are currently eleven active investigations before the ICC: Burundi; the Central African Republic I & II; Democratic Republic of Congo; Darfur, Sudan; Kenya; Libya; Uganda; Côte d’Ivoire; Mali and Georgia. The ICC has publicly issued 34 arrest warrants and nine summonses to appear. Three trials are ongoing. There have been three convictions and three acquittals. Ten preliminary examinations currently ongoing, including into situations in Afghanistan, Bangladesh/Myanmar, Colombia, Gabon, Guinea, Iraq/UK, Palestine, Nigeria, Ukraine, and Venezuela. The OTP has concluded preliminary examinations relating to Honduras, the Republic of Korea and the Comoros referral, declining in each case to open an investigation.