AFRICANGLOBE – Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir failed to turn up at the ongoing Special Follow-Up Summit on HIV/Aids and other related diseases in Nigeria’s capital Abuja where he was expected to make a presentation, after a red-carpet welcome on Sunday.
Al-Bashir’s absence was attributed to fears that he might be arrested by Nigerian authorities following pressure from rights groups and foreign governments.
The Sudanese leader has not attended any session of the Abuja +12 Special Follow-Up Summit.
His absence follows pressure from Nigerian civil society organisations and foreign governments who have called on the authorities to arrest him if he showed up.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2009 and 2010 issued two arrest warrants against al-Bashir.
He was indicted by the ICC in 2006 after being accused of masterminding atrocities during the Darfur conflict, which left hundreds of thousands of people dead.
But on his arrival in Abuja on Sunday al-Bashir got a red-carpet welcome and a full guard of honour.
Nigeria is an ICC signatory and is under obligation to arrest and surrender to The Hague any ICC fugitive.
However, West African country became the third nation to welcome al-Bashir since an arrest warrant was issued against him.
Although Nigeria had vowed to not turn him over, al-Bashir has moved into hiding.
“Nigeria is just hosting it AU Summit. It’s not Nigeria that invited him. He’s not here on a bilateral visit,” President Goodluck Jonathan’s special advisor on media, Reuben Abat said on Monday.
“He is here to participate in an AU summit, and Nigeria is not in a position to determine who attends an AU event and who does not attend.
“Nigeria is just providing the platform for the meeting.”
According to the AP, the Sudanese president has left the west African country.
Only Chad and Djibouti, who are ICC signatories, have received Al-Bashir in the past year and refused to arrest him.
He was denied entry into Uganda, South Africa, Malawi and Zambia.
Civil society groups from across Africa have been lobbying for continued support to the ICC by urging leaders to show more consistent vocal support to the international court.
One the Nigerian groups, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) called on the government to “immediately arrest him to ensure that this country does not become a safe haven for alleged perpetrators of crimes under international law like Al-Bashir.”
“The government risks sanctions by the UN Security Council if it fails to arrest President Al-Bashir and surrender him to the ICC at The Hague,” SERAP’s executive director, Adetokunbo Mumuni said.
However, the AU has repeatedly expressed reservations over the ICC’s warrants, stressing that it will not respect the decision of the court.
By: Konye Obaji Or