League of Arab States/Sudan: Humanitarian assistance must not be made hostage to arrest warrant against President al-Bashir

On the eve of the Summit of the League of Arab States (LAS) in Qatar, Amnesty International called on member states to enforce the arrest warrant against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir who is expected in Qatar on Sunday. Amnesty International also urged the LAS to ask the Sudanese government to allow immediate access for humanitarian organizations to Darfur.

“No one, not even a head of state, should be afforded immunity for war crimes and crimes against humanity,” said Amnesty International Secretary General Irene Khan. “There should be no further attempts to delay justice in the case of President al-Bashir.”

President al-Bashir has visited several countries in the past two weeks, including Egypt and Libya, where he was received by government leaders at the highest level, despite an arrest warrant against him by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The LAS declared on 4 March, in response to the ICC arrest warrant, that President al-Bashir is considered to have immunity against prosecution as a serving head of state. This assertion runs contrary to international law.

In an attempt to obstruct international justice, the African Union and the LAS have requested the UN Security Council to invoke Article 16 of the Rome Statute, which would require the Prosecutor to suspend the case for one year.

“That the Arab League has been at the forefront of calling for international justice in the recent Gaza conflict makes it all the more incomprehensible that it should now actively assist President al-Bashir in his efforts to escape justice,” said Irene Khan. “The LAS should apply the same standard to crimes committed in Sudan as those they are demanding for war crimes and other serious violations of international law committed during the recent conflict in Gaza. They cannot have it both ways.”

Amnesty International said that the US government and European Union states have also applied double standards by actively supporting the ICC arrest warrant against President al-Bashir, while thwarting so far the establishment of a comprehensive UN inquiry into war crimes and other violations in Gaza and southern Israel.

Amnesty International urged the government of Sudan to allow unimpeded access for emergency humanitarian assistance following its expulsion of 13 international humanitarian organizations and the closure of many others in reaction to the ICC arrest warrant. This has left more than 2.4 million people at risk of starvation and serious illnesses unless they receive immediate access to humanitarian assistance.

“The people of Sudan must not be taken hostage by their own government which must guarantee that the delivery of humanitarian assistance and the capacity of humanitarian organizations to operate in the region, regardless of the government’s opposition to the ICC decision,” said Irene Khan.