Will Sudan’s Omar al Bashir Attend the UN General Assembly?

Sudan’s president wants to come to New York. I, for one, sincerely hope the State Department grants Omar al Bashir a visa to address the UN General Assembly next week. That way, when he sets foot on US soil he could be arrested and transferred to the Hague to face war crimes charges.

Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court to for genocide and other crimes against humanity committed in Darfur. So far, he’s evaded justice by rarely leaving Sudan. And, if he does leave, he makes sure to visit a country that won’t extradite him to the Hague. (At least once, though, he mis-judged and fled Nigeria hours after arriving for an international AIDS conference. )

As the host of the United Nations General Secretariat, the USA has obligations under international law to grant visas to heads of state who want to address the General Assembly. Beyond the letter of the law, it is good diplomatic practice to let hardened anti-American leaders visit the UN; even leaders with less than savory human rights records should be allowed into the country to attend UN meetings. The UN is an important forum for diplomacy, and the since the US has the privilege of hosting the UN it has the responsibility and obligation to let world leaders attend meetings.

But Genocide is a category all on its own.  It is a crime so horrible that these other important diplomatic considerations ought to be trumped. Bashir is wanted for orchestrating the systematic extermination of people not because of what they did, what they believed or who they voted for–but for who they are. That is genocide. It is the most grave crime on the face of the earth.

The USA is not a member of the International Criminal Court, so it has no formal legal obligation to extradite wanted criminals to the Hague. But the USA did sponsored the 2005 Security Council resolution that gave the ICC jurisdiction to go after Omar al Bashir.  Should Bashir set foot on American soil and not end up in handcuffs and a one-way ticket to The Netherlands the USA would be acting contrary to the spirit of the very resolution it signed.

I sincerely doubt that the State Department will actually issue the visa. If they do, I would imagine that President Obama would signal that Bashir could expect to be arrested upon arrival in New York and therefore dissuade his travel.  Still, how great would it be if he was arrested in New York next week?