The EU Must Not Let Sudanese Victims Down: do not Ignore the Pending ICC Arrest Warrants Against Al-Bashir

(Brussels, Paris, The Hague) The European Union’s first joint summit with the League of Arab States (LAS), set to take place in Egypt from 24-25 February 2019, must not see the participation of Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, a defendant at large wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. As a regional body that is vocal in its commitment to supporting and cooperating with the ICC, including in executing pending ICC arrest warrants such as the two against Al-Bashir, the European Union (EU) must withdraw from hosting the joint summit unless guarantees are given that Al-Bashir will not attend.

Over the past few years, cooperation between the European Union and the League of Arab States has included “finding common solutions to common problems”, for instance reaching solutions for the conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Libya. Nevertheless, concerns were raised over the EU’s problematic approach to managing migration flows, particularly its policies and agreements with a number of LAS Member States, including Sudan, which resulted in serious human rights violations. In the same vein, hosting a joint summit to enhance regional cooperation must not come at the expense of normalising the EU’s relationship with an ICC fugitive. Doing so would contradict the legally binding EU decision to support cooperation with the ICC, as well as the obligations of individual EU Member States to cooperate with the ICC, including in the execution of arrest warrants.

“If the EU goes forward with hosting a war criminal, it will be a serious blow for the victims of Darfur and an utter disappointment to the Sudanese people who have, over the past weeks, taken to the streets to protest the dire political and economic situation. The EU must listen to and respect the voices of thousands calling for regime change in Sudan and a transitional government that will fulfil aspirations for justice, peace, freedom and democratic transformation.”

Mossaad Mohamed Ali, Executive Director of ACJPS

Last fall, a debate on whether Al-Bashir enjoys immunity as a head of state, or as a result of his diplomatic function, continued to boil following Jordan’s failure to fulfil its obligation to cooperate with the ICC and arrest Al-Bashir while he was present on its territory for the Arab League Summit. Jordan, a State Party to the ICC, argued that it is under no obligation, under customary and conventional law, to arrest Al-Bashir. ICC judges subsequently invited regional bodies to submit their views on the question on immunities for heads of states. To the dismay of FIDH, ACJPS both the African Union (AU) and LAS concurred with Jordan’s arguments.

“Even if the EU chose not to make submissions on the question of the immunities of heads of states, it must make clear through its actions that Al-Bashir cannot go back to business as usual and that he must still answer for the crimes he is charged with. Convening a summit with Al-Bashir’s attendance is a step back from EU’s commitment to justice and to the ICC.”

Arnold Tsunga, FIDH Vice President

March 4th will mark ten years since the ICC issued its first arrest warrant against Al-Bashir on counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes. Over the past ten years, Al-Bashir has defied the warrants against him and travelled across the world including to States Parties to the ICC who failed to arrest and surrender him to the seat of the ICC. Ten years on, victims’ fight for justice continues and Al-Bashir must answer for his crimes.

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