By Rachel Doane, Legal Communications Intern
On March 29, 2012, nineteen African civil society organizations and other international organizations sent an open letter to President Salva Kiir Mayardit of South Sudan expressing their discontent with the recent invitation extended to Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir to attend the April 2012 presidential summit in Juba, South Sudan. The letter condemns President Bashir for his past human rights violations, specifically noting the crimes which took place in Darfur for which he is currently wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC). It goes on to discuss current reports of open violence along the border between the two countries.
In addition, the letter discusses the referral of the Darfur situation to the ICC by the UN Security Council, and the proceeding arrest warrants issued for President Bashir in 2009 and 2010. The drafters praise all States that have refused to receive President Bashir since the issuance of these arrest warrants, stating that “With each refusal, the survivors of Bashir’s atrocities come closer to seeing justice done in their lifetime and to knowing that Bashir will never again subject others to a similar pain and torment.”
As many of the signatories represent organizations operating within South Sudan, they are keenly aware of the human rights violations perpetrated by the Government of Sudan over the past two decades. As a result, they call upon leaders of the newly independent nation of South Sudan to take a “principled stance” on the warrants for the arrest of President Bashir. This means that while South Sudan must continue to communicate and negotiate with the Government of Sudan, they must also promote an end to impunity for President Bashir and the other high-level officials wanted by the ICC.
The presidential summit, which was originally to take place on April 3, aims to address various points of contention between South Sudan and Sudan. This includes disputes over oil revenues, citizenship, and the continued violence along the border between the two states. The letter praises these efforts, while suggesting that the summit be moved to a location outside of South Sudan. The signatories implore President Kiir to consider the possible ramifications of hosting an international fugitive, stating, “For little more than a public relations exercise, South Sudan could join the short list of countries that have tacitly condoned Bashir’s crimes by failing to respect the ICC’s warrants for his arrest.” They also call for the Government of South Sudan to ratify the Rome Statute and other international human rights treaties.
Although President Bashir suspended his trip to Juba due to recent clashes along the border, President Kiir remains committed to ensuring the presidential summit takes place. Almost immediately following the Government of Sudan’s decision to suspend the trip, President Kiir renewed his invitation. A new date for the summit has not yet been set.
To read the letter in its entirety, click here.
Photo Credits: REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin