The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Tel: +1-212-216-1832,Email:,

Sudan: Bashir Inauguration Should Be No-Go Zone

Governments Should Not Meet with Officials Wanted for War Crimes


Governments that are committed to justice for atrocities committed in
Darfur should not attend the inauguration of President Omar al-Bashir
of Sudan on May 27, 2010, Human Rights Watch said in a letter released today. This
includes the 111 states that are parties to the International Criminal
Court (ICC), as well as the United States and other members of the
United Nations Security Council, which referred Darfur to the ICC in

President al-Bashir is subject to an arrest warrant issued by the ICC
in March 2009 on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for
atrocities committed in Darfur. Sudan has consistently obstructed
cooperation with the ICC's investigations and prosecutions for crimes in

"Al-Bashir is a fugitive from justice who should be arrested, not
feted." said Elise Keppler, International Justice Program senior counsel
at Human Rights Watch. "Attendance at al-Bashir's inauguration would
send a terrible message to victims in Darfur, and globally."

ICC states parties are obligated to cooperate with the court under
the Rome Statute, which created the ICC, and they should demonstrate
support for its work, Human Rights Watch said. UN guidelines, which
limit contact by UN representatives with persons wanted by international
criminal courts to essential contacts, state that attendance at "any
ceremonial or similar occasion" should be avoided.

Attendance at the inauguration would be particularly unfortunate in
the lead-up to the first review conference of the ICC's Rome Statute,
which will take place in Kampala, Uganda from May 31 to June 11. The review conference will be a
moment of significant attention to the court's work and an important
time to showcase state party dedication to the cause of international
justice, Human Rights Watch said.

"Diplomats attending al-Bashir's inaugural would be making a mockery
of their governments' support for international justice," Keppler said.

EU member states face particular questions over their possible
attendance at the inauguration, Human Rights Watch said. The EU has a
common position in support of the ICC, and the EU has regularly
denounced Sudan's failure to cooperate with the ICC's investigations and
to execute pending arrest warrants. In June 2008, the EU foreign
affairs ministers and the EU heads of government and state publicly
pledged that they would consider "additional measures" against those
responsible for non-cooperation with the ICC on this issue. In addition,
the EU Council is expected to adopt conclusions the day before the
inauguration reiterating its unwavering support for the ICC.

"The EU can't have it both ways," Keppler said. "It should be
consistent in its efforts to bring justice for crimes committed in

Human Rights Watch is one of the world's leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. Our rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse. For 30 years, Human Rights Watch has worked tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the world.