Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president, made a pilgrimage to Mecca yesterday, threatening the credibility of the International Criminal Court, which has issued a warrant for his arrest.
Al-Bashir's journey to Saudi Arabia was his most daring act of defiance since he became the first sitting head of state to be named a fugitive from international justice last month and the court's highest-profile target.
The court, designed to dispense justice based on the premise that there are universal moral standards that apply to all human behaviour, wants Al-Bashir to face trial for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Sudanese region of Darfur.
While the 108 member nations that signed up to support the International Criminal Court (ICC) have a duty to arrest him, Al-Bashir has visited five countries since the warrant was issued — all non-ICC members — as he tries to polarise views against the court by portraying it as a vehicle for Western interference in Arab and African nations.
The ICC's four current cases are all against Africans, which some believe presents it with an image problem that Al-Bashir is doing his best to exploit. The court's supporters are now prepared for at least one African nation to withdraw its support from the world's first permanent court for international justice after Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader and President of the African Union (AU), called it “a new world terrorism” this week.
Al-Bashir was given a boost by the Arab League at the conclusion of its summit, which he attended in Qatar on Monday. “We reiterate our solidarity with Sudan and our rejection of the measure of the ... International Criminal Court against his Excellency,” it said in its final statement.