Sudan’s Bashir Travels Freely to Nigeria. A Huge Blow to the ICC

The president of Sudan, Omar al Bashir is a fugitive-at-large from the International Criminal Court. He is wanted for crimes against humanity and genocide committed in Darfur. An arrest warrant was issued for him in 2006 but he has yet to set foot in the Hague because he has yet to be arrested. He has yet to be arrested because the ICC has no police force to execute warrants, and depends on member states to do so.

Sudanese police are not going to arrest Bashir and extradite him, so the best opportunities arise when he makes a rare international trip.  He’s made a few limited trips to countries in the region, but in general the farther away from Khartoum he goes, the more likely it is that a country would execute the arrest warrant. He’s had to cancel trips in the past.

It’s a wonder, then, that Nigeria, which is a state party to the ICC, would welcome Bashir to its borders for an international AIDS conference. This is a bad news. Nigeria is the largest country in Africa in terms of population, it’s a regional powerhouse, a democracy, and a member in good standing of the international community.

President Goodluck Jonathan’s office is basing his decision on an 2009 resolution from the African Union which rejected the ICC indictments, saying it would interfere with a peace process. But many African Union countries, including South Africa,  have placed their obligations to international justice and the ICC above regional politics. It appears that Nigeria has not. That is deeply problematic for the ICC and for the promise of justice for war crimes in Africa.