Human rights activists and International Criminal Court judges have asked the US to arrest Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir when he arrives in New York to attend the UN General Assembly later this month, the New York Times has reported. It is no secret that Al-Bashir has applied for a visa from the US authorities in order to attend the gathering of world leaders.
This has enraged the activists and ICC judges who accuse Al-Bashir of committing atrocities and genocide against the Sudanese opposition in the Darfur province of the country. American officials, including the new US ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, have denounced Al-Bashir’s plan to attend the General Assembly. “It would be more appropriate for him to go to The Hague and present himself to the ICC instead of coming to the UN,” she told the New York Times.
According to the NYT report, though, it is unclear what the US authorities could do legally to block the visit; as the hosts of the UN, the American authorities are obliged to grant visas to world leaders or their representatives regardless of Washington’s official relationship towards the regime in question.
The US is not a member of the ICC and is not obliged to abide by provisions that require members to issue arrest warrants against anyone accused of war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity and suchlike. Nevertheless, as observers have pointed out, the US is a permanent member of the UN Security Council which voted to refer prosecutions for atrocities committed in Darfur to the ICC and has supported the court’s efforts to convict Al-Bashir.