As UN Dispatch noted recently, following the ICC’s arrest warrant issuance for President Omar al-Bashir, it may be time for an extended vacation for President Bashir.
It’s highly unlikely that newly-warranted war criminal will be so foolish as to try to travel to New York to chair a meeting of the United Nations Group of 77, for example, or head to Brussels to visit the European Union.
However, given his proven penchant for charm offensives, President Bashir may well try to head over to Tripoli, Libya, where he could enjoy relaxing in Muammar “King of Kings” Gaddafi’s tent and discussing how the Darfur conflict is actually a foreign plot led by Israel. Or maybe Bashir will make plans to head South to Harare, Zimbabwe, where he and fellow authoritarian leader Robert Mugabe could discuss their favored tactics of repression.
All humor aside, President Bashir may soon begin making the rounds to friendly governments, attempting to drum up support for an Article 16 deferral and urging governments to forget that he is no longer merely a president with a dark history of targeted civilian brutality, but also a wanted war criminal
The United States and other parties with leverage on Sudan must not allow President Bashir to begin another P.R. tour. International justice is now on the march, and it is headed for Khartoum.
UPDATE: The U.S. State Department’s Daily Press Briefing from March 4, the day of the arrest warrant issuance, has some good tidbits on the hypotheticals regarding Bashir’s travel plans and the potential U.S. government response, although the State Department spokesman resisted the pressure put on him by reporters to speculate (emphasis my own):
QUESTION: Since the United States is not a signatory to the ICC, if for some reason President Bashir were to be on U.S. soil, would the U.S. be under any obligation to arrest him and turn him over to international authorities?
Acting Deputy Department Spokesman Deputy Gordon
DUGUID: That’s a speculative question. I don’t expect President Bashir to be here anytime soon, so I will defer that question until it actually happens.
QUESTION: Well, it’s not a speculative question.
MR. DUGUID: Yes, the —
QUESTION: Forget about Bashir.
MR. DUGUID: Yes.
QUESTION: If there’s – if the ICC has issued an arrest warrant for someone who then turns up on U.S. soil —
MR. DUGUID: The United States expects all parties to the conflict in Darfur to cooperate fully with the ICC and its prosecutors called upon by the relevant UN Security Council resolution. The question of whether or not someone charged by the ICC shows up on U.S. soil, what is the U.S. response for that, I’ll have to ask our lawyers to provide me with an answer.
QUESTION: Okay. Can I – because I don’t know if there is any obligation at all, but it’s not incredibly hypothetical to think that Bashir might come to the United States. I mean, a lot of world leaders go to the UN.
MR. DUGUID: The UN would be a different case as the diplomatic organization there.
QUESTION: They have to land at an airport on U.S. soil.
MR. DUGUID: They also have special arrangements for them. Let’s ask the lawyers to get us an answer on this so we are not speculating.