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Rights group calls for al-Bashir arrest during visit to Chad

Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Wednesday urged the country of Chad to arrest [press release] Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir [case materials; JURIST news archive] during his visit to the country. Al-Bashir was charged last week by the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] with three counts of genocide [warrant, PDF; JURIST report] in relation to the Darfur conflict [BBC backgrounder]. The genocide charges were added to seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity that were filed against al-Bashir [JURIST report] in March 2009. Al-Bashir is in Chad to take part in a meeting of the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD) [official website], and the visit is his first to an ICC member state since the warrants were issued. The government of Chad indicated that al-Bashir would not be arrested [AFP report] during his visit to the country because he is there as an acting member of CEN-SAD. HRW contends that because Chad is a party to the Rome Statute [text, PDF], it has an obligation under the statute to execute outstanding arrest warrants issued by the ICC. A spokesperson for HRW warned about the implication of al-Bashir being allowed in the country without being arrested stating that, "Chad risks the shameful distinction of being the first ICC member state to harbor a suspected war criminal from the court." The spokesperson also noted that, "a political deal between Chad and Sudan is no justification for shielding alleged war criminals."

The recent charges against al-Bashir come after the appeals chamber reversed a prior decision [JURIST report] by the lower chamber denying the prosecutor's request for genocide charges. ICC prosecutors appealed the decision [JURIST report] not to charge al-Bashir with genocide in July 2009. The appeals chamber found that the standard of proof applied by the lower chamber had been too high, and that there only needed to be a showing of reasonable grounds of a genocidal specific intent, a showing that had been met when the first arrest warrant was issued. The warrant issued last week alleges that the Sudanese government, using the national armed forces, police and the Janjaweed militia [BBC backgrounder], targeted ethnic groups for extermination that were believed to be close to armed opposition groups in Darfur as part of a counter-insurgency strategy, and that as commander-in-chief of Sudanese forces, Bashir "played an essential role in [its] coordinati[on]." Al-Bashir has eluded arrest since the issuance of the first warrant. The warrant has been controversial, with Egypt, Sudan, the African Union and others calling for the proceedings against Bashir to be delayed, and African Union leaders agreeing [JURIST reports] not to cooperate with the warrant.

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