AMSTERDAM – The International Criminal Court has urged the Central African Republic to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, a war crimes suspect, if he makes his planned visit to the country on Wednesday.
The court said the country should arrest al-Bashir, who is scheduled to attend the country's independence day celebrations, on suspicion of war crimes and alleged genocide in Darfur, or explain why it cannot.
Several nations have previously declined to carry out the court's international warrant, citing fears it could derail efforts to end the seven-year conflict in Sudan's western Darfur region. The conflict has left up to 300,000 people dead and forced 2.7 million to flee their homes, according to U.N. figures.
The Central African Republic is, however, a signatory to the international treaty establishing the Hague, Netherlands-based court — a formal promise to abide by its rules.
Al-Bashir denies wrongdoing and rejects the authority of the Hague, Netherlands-based court known as the ICC. The U.N. Security Council granted the ICC jurisdiction over Sudanese war crimes in 2005, but the court has no police force or ability to enforce its orders without cooperation from governments.
The Central African Republic has previously supported the court's arrest of Congo's former vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba, now on trial at the ICC. Bemba allegedly allowed militias under his command to carry out rapes on a wide scale in Central African Republic in 2002-2003.
He has pleaded not guilty.
Fellow ICC treaty signatories Chad and Kenya passed on previous opportunities to arrest al-Bashir. Kenya in particular faced heavy international criticism for failing to arrest al-Bashir in August, including from U.S. President Barack Obama. Kenya then ducked out of hosting an event al-Bashir was to attend in October.
Al-Bashir has continued to visit countries where he is not likely to face arrest, such as Ethiopia, which is not a member of the ICC. He traveled to Saudi Arabia last month on a Muslim pilgrimage.