A few weeks ago, Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir made major news headlines when he visited neighboring Chad to attend the summit of the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD). Now, Al-Bashir is reportedly planning another official visit to Ndjamena in mid-March to attend the African Green Belt Conference. If Chad hosts Al-Bashir once again without arresting him, Chad will have the dubious distinction of being the first state party to welcome a wanted fugitive on its territory twice in less than two months.
On February 22, 2013, following the visit of President Al-Bashir to Chad, ICC judges of pre-trial Chamber II concluded that Chad failed to cooperate with the Court and requested the office of the Registrar of the ICC to demand an explanation from Chad by March 14, 2013, as to why Chad failed to arrest Al Bashir or consult with the court if they had difficulties in arresting the suspect.
Al-Bashir is subject to two arrest warrants issued against him, one for crimes against humanity and war crimes, and another one for genocide. Bashir's visit to Chad would be his fourth in four years since the arrest warrants were issued despite Chad being a state party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which carries with it obligations to arrest and surrender any ICC suspect. During Bashir's recent visit in February, Chad failed to arrest the Sudanese President thus violating its obligation to fully cooperate with the Court, leading to outcries not only from African and international civil society organizations but also the European Union, the Assembly of States Parties of the ICC and other states parties to the Rome Statute.
It ought to be noted that it is only since 2010 that Chad started breaching its obligations to the ICC. In 2009, Chad was the first African country which entered a reservation in the AU decision of the summer of 2009 when a decision was made not to cooperate with the ICC. Chad changed its negative image and joined the five African states which denied Bashir entry to their countries.
In November 2012, while presenting her second report on the situation in Darfur to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), ICC Prosecutor Ms. Fatou Bensouda informed members of the Security Council that civilians in Darfur continue to be targeted by Sudanese armed forces. She specifically pointed out the use of aerial bombardment -- which constitutes a clear violation of several UNSC resolutions -- and ground attacks intentionally targeting civilians.
The conflict in Darfur which broke out exactly 10 years ago, has affected the lives of more than 2.5 million people and those who allegedly bear the most responsibility and are sought by the ICC remain at large. Apart from President Al-Bashir, Sudanese Defense Minister Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein, the-current Governor of South Kordofan Ahmad Harun -- also known as the 'butcher of Nuba' and Ali Kushayb -- known as the 'Colonel of Colonels' are also subject to arrest warrants and have yet to be arrested. .
Regrettably, the violence seems to be increasing in the past weeks in the region, so does the impunity. Therefore, the commitment of the international community -- who under the authority of the UNSC referred the situation in Darfur to the ICC in 2005 -- must prevail.
Cooperation at a technical, diplomatic and political level with the ICC is therefore essential for the correct functioning of the Court and greatly needed to put an end to the impunity. States, such as Chad, should not only honor their obligations to arrest any person subject to an ICC arrest warrant, regardless of their official capacity, but also honor their promise to fight against impunity as they committed themselves to do when they joined the ICC treaty.
This post was co-written with Stephen A. Lamony, Senior Advisor to the Coalition for the International Criminal Court.