Chad Disregards Its Obligation to Arrest Al Bashir

July 23, 2010

Chad’s government seems to have misplaced its copy of the Rome Statute, the founding document of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir, who was recently charged with the crime of genocide by the ICC, just spent the last two days in Chad, without the Chadian government lifting a finger to respect its obligations under the Rome Statute.

Chad ratified the Rome Statute in November 2006 – which means they have an obligation to arrest and surrender to the Court individuals like Al Bashir who have had warrants issued for their arrest by the ICC. But Chad’s government went as far as stating that, no, they did not have an obligation to arrest Al Bashir.

Presumably, Al Bashir was in Chad to discuss the agreement Sudan and Chad signed in January 2010 to normalize their relations while armed insurgencies continue to devastate eastern Chad and western Sudan. Chadian President Idriss Déby had gone to Khartoum in February to meet with Al Bashir, and several weeks later the two governments started to deploy a jointly-commanded military force along the border. But as we noted in our most recent report on Chad, fighting continues to erupt between the Chadian National Army and armed opposition groups. The situation across the border in Darfur remains extremely volatile, especially with the arrival of more than 1,000 new refugees in Chad in May 2010.

Between this refusal to arrest Al Bashir while he was in Chad and the government’s insistence that the UN peacekeeping mission in eastern Chad, MINURCAT, withdraw before the end of the year, human rights are being threatened.

Not surprisingly, President Déby has also been resoundingly silent about the prosecution for human rights violations of his predecessor, Hissène Habré, who is currently in exile in Senegal. Déby was all for having Habré tried back in 2000 when the Habré prosecution efforts started up. However, because his own human rights record has gone from bad to awful, and because of the precedent a successful Habré prosecution would set, Déby has had little motivation to ensure justice for the victims of human rights violations. So it kind of makes sense. Why on earth would Déby want to hand over Al Bashir to the ICC, thereby giving credence to the ICC’s indictment of Al Bashir, and inviting international scrutiny of his own human rights record?

But the facts remain that Chad has the obligation to arrest Al Bashir. Call the Chadian embassy and let them know you are disappointed Chad chose to disregard its obligations under the Rome Statute. And you can always send them a copy of the Rome Statute to remind them of those obligations.

Sarah Milburn, Amnesty International USA’s Chad Country Specialist, contributed to this blog post