Bashir is our guest and can’t be arrested here, Mushikiwabo says


President of Sudan Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir expected in Kigali for AU summit.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was duly invited to the ongoing African Union (AU) Summit in Kigali as the head of a member state to the union and cannot be arrested over a standing warrant by a highly contested international court.

The reassurance was given, yesterday, by Foreign Affairs minister Louise Mushikiwabo during a news conference in Kigali.

“We have no right to arrest anybody,” the minister said, explaining that Rwanda can only protect all the Heads of State attending the Summit not only because they are covered by presidential immunity but also because Rwanda is not a signatory to the International Criminal Court (in Bashir’s case).

ICC’s arrest warrant against Al-Bashir was issued in 2009.

Rwanda, which is one of the 20 African countries that are not members of the ICC out of the AU’s 54 member states, would rather see Africans tried in Africa instead of being sent to the ICC, a court accused for being “highly politicised and biased against Africa.”

“Africa doesn’t support criminals but when justice is involved with a lot of politics, we take a pause to separate the two,” Mushikiwabo said.


Minister Louise Mushikiwabo addressing a press conference yesterday in Kigali (Photo.Kisambira T.)

The AU’s main criticism of the ICC is that it has only prosecuted Africans, suggesting that it is pursuing selective justice since there are other suspects of grave crimes elsewhere in the world who should be charged by the court.

While 34 countries in Africa are party to the Rome Statute that established The Hague-based court, some of them have ignored ICC calls to arrest President Al-Bashir.

Member countries of the court in Africa that have recently declined to arrest Al-Bashir include Uganda, Djibouti, and South Africa.

African court

On Monday, the court decided that Uganda and Djibouti had failed to comply with the request for arrest and surrender of Al-Bashir to the ICC and referred the matter to the Assembly of member states of the court and the United Nations Security Council.

Al-Bashir is expected to arrive in the country this weekend to join other Heads of State and Government for the Summit.

“Those who wish to arrest President Al-Bashir shouldn’t have waited for him to come to Rwanda to arrest him. He is our guest and he can’t be arrested here,” Mushikiwabo told journalists yesterday.

Meanwhile, the minister said African leaders gathered at the summit in Kigali have extensively discussed the need for African countries that are members of the ICC to sign out of the court and instead focus on strengthening an African court to try grave crimes against humanity.

“The subject was debated at the AU’s Executive Council and will definitely be discussed by the Heads of State Summit,” Minister Mushikiwabo said.


A journalist asks a question during the press conference

Since it was set up in 2002, the ICC has so far laid charges in eight countries that are all from Africa, including in the Central African Republic, DR Congo, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Libya, Sudan, Uganda, and Mali.

The court has carried out investigations in other parts of the world, including Georgia and Colombia, but no one has yet been charged.