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News > World

Human Rights Org Urges Tunisia to Turn Over al-Bashir to ICC

  • Some ICC members have previously allowed Sudan President Omar al-Bashir on their territory.

    Some ICC members have previously allowed Sudan President Omar al-Bashir on their territory. | Photo: Reuters file

Published 27 March 2019

Al-Bashir is scheduled to attend the League of Arab States summit which being held in Tunisia on March 31.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) Monday issued a release urging Tunisia to comply with the rules of the International Criminal Court (ICC) regarding Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is allegedly wanted for crimes.   

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“Tunisia should demonstrate its commitment to international justice by barring President al-Bashir or arresting him if he sets foot in the country,” said Elise Keppler, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch.

Al-Bashir is scheduled to attend the League of Arab States summit on March 31. HRW stated that ICC member state Tunisia, who will host the summit, should either issue an arrest warrant for the Sudanese leader under the court’s Rome Statute or outright bar him from attending the meeting.

Tunisia is yet to allowed any individual labeled an ICC fugitive on its territory since joining the court in 2011.

“Al-Bashir is an international fugitive who should be in The Hague to face the charges against him, not attending summits hosted by ICC members,” Keppler added.

Tunisia’s ambassador at The Hague expressed, Dec. 2018, that “the firm commitment of Tunisia to the Rome Statute and unwavering support for the fight against impunity of the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community.”

Some ICC members have previously allowed al-Bashir on their territory, but others have strictly cooperated with the ICC membership rules.

Notably, in 2009, both Botswana and Denmark warned the Sudanese president of the likelihood of arrested if he entered their territory.

Some nations have extended more amicable solutions and rescheduled events to accommodate the embattled head of state.

Malawi relocated an African Union (AU) summit in 2012, to allow al-Bashir to attend the meeting.

The Human Rights Watch, in the statement, has asked that ICC members put pressure on Tunisia to exercise compliance with the court’s rules. 

President al-Bashir is allegedly being sought on warrants for alleged genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur, Sudan.

“The ICC relies on its member states like Tunisia for cooperation in the surrender of suspects to be effective,” Keppler said. “Darfur victims, hundreds of thousands of whom have lived in refugee or displaced persons camps for well over a decade, deserve to see al-Bashir face justice at long last.”

Internal human rights issues

Tunisia is also currently being criticized for allegedly obstructing the majority of some 62,000 cases of rights abuses which are to be reviewed by the Truth and Dignity Commission (IVD), which was installed in 2016.

According to Reuters, the commission has held 14 public hearing and thousands of closed-door sessions to address atrocities endured by Tunisians during the administrations of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who led the African nation from 1987 until he was ousted in 2011; and his predecessor Habib Ben Ali Bourguiba, the first president (1957-1987).

The rights violations - which are being levied against the Tunisian police force, judges and relatives of Ben Ali, during his rule - included rape, torture and financial crimes. 

The IVD is modeled after South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission that was established by late former President Nelson Mandela.

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