The International Criminal Court (ICC) has urged Rwanda to arrest Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir if he attends the African Union (AU) summit scheduled to begin this weekend in Kigali. President al-Bashir is one of several African leaders expected in Kigali for an historic AU summit that would see the launch of a common passport for all nationals of AU member countries.
Earlier this week, the ICC had pressed the United Nations Security Council to sanction Uganda and Djibouti for failing to arrest and hand over Mr. al-Bashir when he visited both countries. In 2015, the ICC had also called on South Africa and India to arrest President al-Bashir when he visited those countries.
Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda’s Foreign Minister, has dismissed the ICC’s request for al-Bashir’s arrest as a “distraction,” echoing the sentiments of many African leaders who accuse the ICC of neo-colonial tendencies and constant meddling with African affairs.
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Established in 2002 by a multilateral treaty known as the Rome Statute, The ICC is an international tribunal that sits in The Hague, Netherlands. The ICC has the jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for international crimes of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Currently 124 nation states are signatories to the Rome Statute and therefore members of the ICC.
The ICC first issued warrants for the President al-Bashir’s arrest in 2009 and again in 2010. al-Bashir is wanted by the ICC on multiple charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide allegedly committed between 2003 and 2008 in Darfur, Sudan.
It is expected that African leaders at the Kigali summit would deliberate over the ICC’s position on international crime that repeatedly appears to target African leaders. A number of African countries that are signatories to the Rome Statute have considered withdrawing from the ICC in the past.
To date, all past or currently serving heads of government that have been issued with the ICC’s warrants of arrests have come from Africa. A list that includes Laurent Gbagbo of Côte d’ Ivoire, Muammar Gadhafi of Libya, former President Charles Taylor of Liberia (who was sentenced to 50 years in jail), and now President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan.