On Monday, the U.S. State Department confirmed reports that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, a war criminal indicted by the International Criminal Court for genocide and crimes against humanity, had applied for a U.S. visa with the intent of attending the U.N. General Assembly Meeting in New York next week. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power has described the move as “deplorable, cynical and hugely inappropriate.”
Many members of the United States Government have also expressed their concern over this unprecedented diplomatic predicament.
Representative Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, a longtime Sudan activist in the House, penned a direct letter to the President, urging President Obama “in the strongest possible terms to exercise every measure available to you to inhibit Sudan’s ability to come to the United States, and should he arrive on our shores, to proscribe his movements to the absolute minimum and work closely with U.N. officials and other governments to enforce the principles of ‘non-essential contact’ with persons subject to international arrest Warrants for the worst crimes against humanity, including genocide.” He goes on to state that if the legal opportunity arises, the U.S. should “take President Bashir into custody and deliver him to the International Criminal Court for prosecution.” Rep. McGovern is the principal sponsor of bipartisan legislation to advance a comprehensive U.S. strategy and policy to resolve all of the many conflicts afflicting Sudan (H.R. 1692, the Sudan Peace, Security and Accountability Act).
Representative Barbara Lee of California, the nominated US Representative to the 68th Session of the UN General Assembly, has also spoken out. She wrote in a public statement on Wednesday that President Bashir’s “planned travel to New York City is blatantly disrespectful of international norms, and before he attempts to travel to UN headquarters, he should head to the Hague to answer for genocide and crimes against humanity.”
Finally, Senator Cardin of Maryland released a public statement expressing his outrage that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has even requested a visa: “President al-Bashir needs to go to The Hague, not the United Nations.”
Since the announcement, the Enough Project has spoken out against the possibility that President Bashir will have a successful trip to the UN. In a joint coalition letter sent to President Obama, human rights activists implored the U.S. Government to do everything possible to dissuade President Bashir from travelling to New York City for UN meetings. Enough also coordinated with partners for potential actions should President Bashir arrive, and is working to prevent this through mobilizing activists to speak out against the trip in a public letter to President Obama.
Photo: Representative Jim McGovern of Massachusetts (AP).