Malawi Refuses to Arrest Sudan’s President, Despite International Urging

Posted October 14th, 2011 at 4:45 am (UTC-5)
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The European Union is urging Malawi to comply with an International Criminal Court warrant and arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir during his visit to the country for a regional trade summit.

A spokesperson for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Friday that she was “concerned” by the visit, and called for Malawi to “respect its obligations under international law.”

President Bashir arrived in Malawi on Thursday for a meeting of the 19-member Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa.

Malawi's foreign ministry said Thursday it has no plans to arrest Mr. Bashir, saying he is a “free person” and a guest of President Bingu wa Mutharika.

Malawi's main opposition party and two leading international human rights groups are also pressuring Malawi to apprehend Mr. Bashir or block his entry into the country.

An official with the Malawi opposition group United Democratic Front told VOA that Malawi would be “aiding and abetting” Mr. Bashir if it fails to arrest him.

On Thursday, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International both issued statements urging Malawi to apprehend Mr. Bashir.

Human Rights Watch senior counsel Elise Keppler told VOA that President Bashir is an international fugitive and that as a member of the ICC, “Malawi should arrest him, not host him.”

Mr. Bashir is wanted by the ICC for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Sudan's western Darfur region. His government has been fighting rebels there since 2003.

Five other African heads of state are expected to attend the two-day trade summit in Malawi — including Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, Eritrea's President Isaias Afewerki, Swaziland's King Mswati, Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza and Malawi's President Bingu wa Mutharika.