Human Rights Watch urges Tunisia to arrest or ban Sudan's Omar al-Bashir

Human Rights Watch urges Tunisia to arrest or ban Sudan's Omar al-Bashir
3 min read
27 March, 2019
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, due to attend an Arab League summit in Tunisia on Sunday, should be arrested by or barred from entry to Tunisia, Human Rights Watch said.
Bashir is sought by the ICC for alleged genocide in Darfur [Anadolu]
Human Rights Watch on Tuesday called for Tunisia to arrest or bar entry to Omar al-Bashir, the embattled Sudanese president currently facing mass protests against his 30-year rule.

Bashir, sought by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur, is expected to attend the Arab League summit in Tunisia on Sunday, Akhir Lahza reported.

"Tunisia should demonstrate its commitment to international justice by barring President Bashir or arresting him if he sets foot in the country," said Elise Keppler, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch.

"Bashir is an international fugitive who should be in The Hague to face the charges against him, not attending summits hosted by ICC members."

Protests against Bashir - who seized power in a 1989 military coup - have been ongoing across Sudan since mid-December, when a government decision to revoke bread surpluses prompted ire which quickly turned to outrage against the regime.

Many Sudanese resent the government being headed by a "war criminal" and complain rule is marked by endemic corruption and oppression.

"The longstanding impunity for human rights violations by authorities in Sudan has fueled ongoing brutality," said the human rights organisation.

Sudanese security forces have utilised "excessive force" against demonstrators, shooting live ammunition and tear gas, as well as beating and torturing protesters and attacking hospitals.

Regime forces have also attacked civilians in Darfur, where the regime claims the conflict has ended, Human Rights Watch said.

Sudanese officials claim 30 people have died in protest-related violence, but activists say at least 57 have been killed.

Read more: Sudan's Bashir: The Arab League must host a summit, not a fugitive

If Tunisia permits the Sudanese president to attend the summit, it will mark the first time the country has allowed an ICC fugitive to enter its territory since it became a member of the court in 2011.

"Darfur victims, hundreds of thousands of whom have lived in refugee or displaced persons camps for well over a decade, deserve to see Bashir face justice at long last," said Keppler.

Tunisia is firmly committed to the Rome Statute and has "unwavering support for the fight against impunity of the perpetrators of the most serious crimes", ambassador the Hague Elyes Gharriani said in December.

While some ICC members have previously allowed Bashir to enter their territory unimpeded, others have taken steps to cooperate with the Rome Statute while still avoiding the president's arrest.

Malawi relocated an African Union (AU) summit in 2012 after the AU insisted that Bashir should be allowed to attend the meeting. Other countries have asked Sudan to send representatives other than the president to attending meetings in order to circumvent the obligation to arrest Bashir.

ICC members should urge Tunisia to take such action, Human Rights Watch said.

Jordan permitted Bashir to attend an Arab League summit in 2017, a decision which ICC judges concluded was in defiance of the country's obligations as a member of the court to arrest Bashir.

Jordan has appealed the decision, which is now pending in an ICC appeals chamber.

"For 10 years Bashir has continued to trot around the globe including to states who failed their obligation to surrender him to the Court," said FIDH representative at the ICC Amal Nasser and advocate Fadi al-Qadi.

"His victims deserve to see him brought to justice, but can they rely on Tunisia to do so? One can only hope."