Sudan’s President Visits Eritrea Despite Warrant

WASHINGTON (RPRN) 03/23/09-Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir is in neighboring Eritrea, his first trip abroad since the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for his arrest. Eritrea invited the Sudanese president earlier this month, soon after the ICC indicted him for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

Eritrea’s Information Minister, Ali Abdu, says Mr. Bashir arrived Monday to discuss bilateral issues with his Eritrean counterpart, Isaias Afwerki. He is scheduled to return home by the end of the day.

Prosecutors at the ICC say Mr. Bashir is behind a campaign of murder, rape, and other crimes against civilians in Darfur, where his government has been fighting rebels for the past six years.

Mr. Bashir is scheduled to attend an Arab summit next week in Qatar. Sudan’s highest religious authority has urged him not to go because of the warrant.

Eritrea and Qatar are not considered likely to arrest Mr. Bashir because neither has signed the Rome Statute, the founding text of the International Criminal Court.

Under the charter of the ICC, member states are bound to arrest those indicted when they enter the members’ territory.

Mr. Bashir has insisted he will attend the March 30 summit in Doha despite the international court’s call for his arrest.

However, a Sudanese presidential spokesman said Sunday that no final decision has been made on whether Mr. Bashir will go. Sudanese officials say security precautions will be in place if Mr. Bashir makes the trip.

The United Nations says the fighting and related violence in Darfur has killed more than 200,000 people, and displaced more than 2.5 million others. Sudan says the death toll is around 10,000.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.