Al Bashir, One More Year at Large

Supporters of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir hold his pictures as they wait to greet him at Khartoum airport on November 1
Supporters of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir hold his pictures as they wait to greet him at Khartoum airport on November 14, 2012. Bashir returned home from Saudi Arabia after undergoing vocal cord surgery in the kingdom, an AFP reporter said. AFP PHOTO / ASHRAF SHAZLY (Photo credit should read ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP/Getty Images)

The conflict in the Western Sudanese region of Darfur has been ongoing for more than 10 years now and despite all the efforts undertaken, it does not seem to be getting any better in terms of ending the violence and achieving any kind of accountability for crimes committed. Those who are indicted as the most responsible for the international criminal violations in Darfur by the International Criminal Court (ICC) remain at large and in the past years, we have seen President Omar Al Bashir being invited to and participating in different events, even, regrettably, on the territory of ICC States Parties.

But, first things first: the ICC has been involved in the Darfur situation, following upon a formal request of the UN Security Council, since 2005; it has issued five arrest warrants against four individuals, including the Head of State Omar Al Bashir, Abdel Raheem Hussein, Ahmad Harun, and Ali Kushayb. All of them remain at large and the refusal of the Sudanese government to cooperate with the Court has been consistent since that date. Plus, according to the latest report by ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, Darfur's civilian population continues to be targeted by government forces, with the ongoing widespread occurrence of sexual and gender based violence, crimes against human rights defenders, civil society members and community leaders. The list of crimes goes on and on.

Just to give you an idea, the United Nations and other credible observers estimate that the wave of violence in the region may have killed as many as 500,000 people. We, as an international community continue to fail the victims.

Despite that horrific number and the lack of any investigations at the local level, since he was indicted, Bashir visited Kenya, Ethiopia, China, Egypt, Chad, Malawi, Qatar, Libya, Saudi Arabia and Iraq; and was invited to several other countries, including Venezuela, Turkey and Peru. Some of those countries are ICC States Parties, and therefore have the obligation to comply with the provisions of the Rome Statute. They should have arrested Bashir and transferred him to The Hague.

It is also important to note that when was invited to both Venezuela and Turkey, governments and activists from all over the world asked these States not to host Bashir. He ended up cancelling both visits.

But that did not happen when he was invited to Peru in 2012 for the Third Summit for South American and Arab countries. When I reached out to local authorities, they all said that for "protocol reasons, they 'believed' President al-Bashir was invited" and later suggested that the fact that Bashir was invited was irrelevant "because in the end, Bashir did not come to Peru".

This position was and is shocking: justifying an invitation for protocol and political reasons of an individual indicted for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes is not acceptable from any country. Hosting Bashir is being accomplice to a genocidal regime that continues to kill and rape its own population. If the international community is committed to stopping Bashir, stopping the slaughter of civilians, the rape and the starvation, then, political reasons should not interfere with but should respect and implement judicial decisions, such as the one taken by the ICC when it issued two arrest warrants for Bashir.

And this reminds me of a very important ruling from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, in which Brazilian Judge Antônio A. Cançado Trindade reminded us all that it shall never be forgotten that the State was originally conceived for the realization of the common good: the State exists for the human being, and not vice versa. I always try to keep this in mind when I try to understand some situations; especially, the one in the Sudan.