ICC Declaration: Al-Bashir Flees Nigeria Over Fear Of Arrest
By: George Agba, Kingsley Alu, Winifred Ogbebo, Iorakpen Ishu-Josef on July 16, 2013 - 3:10am
Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir yesterday fled the venue of the ongoing conference of the Special Summit of AU Heads of State and Government tagged “Abuja+12 Special Summit”.
A source who pleaded anonymity told LEADERSHIP that Al-Bashir was afraid that foreign powers might take the opportunity of his presence at the venue to effect his arrest, and he quickly left half-way into the programme.
A source at the Sudanese embassy confirmed to LEADERSHIP that the Sudanese strong man left the country yesterday evening.
Another source added that, during the summit, he declined reporters’ attempt to interview him and zoomed off about 2pm.
Commenting on the traffic congestion at the Abuja Airport yesterday, spokesperson for FAAN, Mrs Henrietta Yakubu, told LEADERSHIP that the arrival of the august visitors to Nigeria might have played a large part.
Another source said that a movement involving the president of Kenya also contributed. The source said that the tight security at the airport yesterday was not unconnected with an attempt to scrutinise those coming and leaving the airport, just as efforts were intensified to ensure that Sudanese president Al-Bashir did not beat security and leave the country.
According to the source, following an alleged tip-off of his impending arrest by the Nigerian government, the Sudanese strong man had to quickly leave half-way into the programme to avoid arrest.
Judges at the International Criminal Court had ordered the arrest of the Sudanese president for atrocities committed in Darfur.
LEADERSHIP checks revealed that Al-Bashir was also absent at a dinner organised for the visiting AU Heads of State by President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday.
Why development is slow – Jonathan
President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday in Abuja said that political instability, insecurity and infectious diseases have impeded African leaders’ efforts at rapid development and effective optimisation of the abundant potential of the Africa continent.
However, Jonathan said across Africa infectious diseases have not only slowed down economic growth, they have contributed to the depletion of human capital, food insecurity and high maternal and child mortality.
Addressing African leaders at the ongoing African Union (AU) Special Summit of Heads of States and Governments on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Jonathan expressed the hope that together and with home-grown initiatives, African leaders can systematically and comprehensively address these tough challenges.
He said, “Our people are anxious for tangible results and concrete action to improve their quality of life. As we look forward to a productive summit, meeting the needs of our people by achieving these goals should be our collective resolve.”
Nigeria’s president also advocated that Africans should look inwards in the search for solutions, calling on African leaders to contribute to the replenishment of the Global Fund to sustain its noble mission.
“We must begin to de-emphasise reliance on external funding and importation of essential medicines required for our treatment programmes. We must stand in solidarity with one another, be proactive to our health challenges and increase intercontinental scientific research partnership and development efforts to complement the various national and regional plans already underway. Time is ripe for a final, concerted solution to these diseases,” President Jonathan said, maintaining that the “cost of inadequate action or no action at all will be too grievous to contemplate.”
His comments come 12 years after African heads of state adopted the Abuja Declaration in 2001, which requires individual governments to increase health spending to at least 15 per cent of national budgets.
The latest health spending in Nigeria is about 6 per cent of budget, which analysts have constantly criticised, unlike Ghana’s 12.5 per cent.
Also in his remarks, the United Nations secretary-general, Mr Ban Ki-Moon, told the gathering of African leaders that failure to maintain momentum can halt and even reverse the progress made so far.
Ki-Moon who was represented by the executive director, United Nations Population Fund, Dr Babatune Osotimehin, said, “My call at Abuja + 12 is for renewed leadership and increased domestic and international funding -- new investment in improved tests and drugs, stronger health services to delivering them.”
Ki-Moon tasked African leaders to place AIDS, TB and malaria at the centre of public health policy including in humanitarian aid, peace building, conflict resolution and development.
“Let us finish the job begun at the beginning of the century so we can bring greater security, opportunities and prosperity to all the people of Africa”
Furore as indicted Sudanese leader attends Abuja HIV/AIDS Summit
President al-Bashir, who was declared wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) more than two years ago was in Abuja for the Abuja +12 Summit.
The Human Rights Watch (HRW) had urged Nigeria to bar the Sudanese president from attending the health summit, demanding that the war crimes-indicted leader be arrested if he visited.
Nigeria is a member of the ICC, which has charged Bashir with war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity over the conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region.
Associate director of the International Justice Programme at HRW, Elise Keppler, told journalists that Bashir’s visit marks “a real test of Nigeria’s commitment to the ICC”.
The Hague-based court issued the indictments against Bashir in 2009 and, since then, his visits or proposed travel to ICC member states have sparked repeated controversy.
Some court members including Chad, Djibouti and Kenya have allowed such visits, but others like Botswana, South Africa and Uganda have ensured that Bashir stayed away.
A number of states “have found a way out of this problem and Nigeria should do the same,” Keppler told AFP. If Bashir in fact visits, Nigeria “should arrest the ICC fugitive,” she added.
Countries that have signed on to the world’s only permanent court for war crimes and crimes against humanity have a legal obligation to arrest any indicted suspect found within their territory.
UK chides Nigeria over Sudanese president’s visit
The UK minister for Africa, Mr Mark Simmonds, has expressed disappointment over Nigeria’s decision “to host” President Omar Al-Bashir of Sudan in spite of the ICC arrest warrant.
A statement issued by the Foreign Office Minister for Africa on Monday said Nigeria’s action undermined the work of the court.
Al-Bashir arrived in the country on Sunday for an AU Summit on HIV and AIDS, to the consternation of rights groups that had called for his arrest, following his indictment by the ICC for alleged crimes in Darfur.
He is accused of allegedly masterminding genocide and other atrocities during the Darfur conflict, charges which he has repeatedly denied.
Simmonds said: “The UK has a strong and abiding bilateral relationship with Nigeria.
“I am therefore disappointed that Nigeria has chosen to host President Al-Bashir of Sudan at an African Union event, despite International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrants against him for alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
“This undermines the work of the ICC and sends the victims a dismaying message that the accountability they are waiting for will be delayed further.”
The statement noted that the British government took seriously its obligations as a state party to the Rome Statute and consistently urged other state parties to do same.
Earlier on Monday, foreign affairs minister Olugbenga Ashiru had told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that Nigeria shunned the ICC arrest warrant because of its commitment to AU position on the issue.
Ashiru, who is currently in Brazil for a meeting, said: “Sudan’s president is in Nigeria at the invitation of AU for the HIV and AIDS Malaria Summit.
“Remember AU in 2009 passed a resolution not to cooperate with the ICC on the indictment of President Al-Bashir.
“However, he is not in Nigeria at our instance as Nigeria’s commitment to the AU remains firm.”
In a statement on Sunday, Elsie Keppler, Human Rights Watch International justice programme director, criticised Nigeria for being the first West African country to welcome the ICC fugitive.
On Monday, the Nigerian Coalition for ICC filed a suit urging the immediate arrest of Al-Bashir, saying that ``he is subject to ICC warrants and Nigeria is an ICC member’’.
According to the group, very few ICC state parties have allowed Al-Bashir on their territories -- Chad and Djibouti.
Kenya and Malawi also allowed one visit, but avoided subsequent visits after diplomatic and public outcry.
Coalition wants court to order Jonathan to arrest Al-Bashir
A group, Nigerian Coalition for the International Criminal Court (NCICC) had asked a federal high court in Abuja to issue an order compelling President Goodluck Jonathan to arrest his Sudanese counterpart, Omar Hassan Ahmed Al-Bashir.
In a suit no. FHC/ABJ/CS/501/2013, NCICC and two other plaintiffs, Legal Defence and Assistance Project, and Women Advocate Research and Documentation Centre have sued the Federal Government of Nigeria.
The plaintiffs, in an originating summons filed by their lawyer, Mr Chino Obiagwu, a copy of which was obtained by LEADERSHIP, is also asking an order of court to issue a provisional warrant of arrest against Al-Bashir pursuant to the warrant of arrest issued by the ICC dated March 3, 2009 and that of July 12, 2010.
Meanwhile, an international lawyer, Ahmed Adeniyi Raji (SAN) has said that the suit is defective and mischievous.
Raji, in an interview with LEADERSHIP, said the suit is defective in the sense that Al-Bashir is not a party to the suit seeking his arrest, and that the plaintiffs may have no locus standi to institute such a suit in the first instance.
As at the time of filing this report, it was not certain whether the plaintiffs had had a judge assigned to hear and determine their motion ex-parte. The court is already on vacation.