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Bashir defies warrant on Chad trip
Sudan president arrives in Chad despite being wanted on genocide and war crimes charges.
Last Modified: 22 Jul 2010 03:26 GMT


Mohammed Adow reports on Bashir's arrival in Ndjamena, the capital of Chad.

Omar al-Bashir, the president of Sudan, has arrived in Chad on his first trip to a member state of the International Criminal Court (ICC) that demands his arrest for war crimes and genocide, officials and media reports have said.

Bashir was seen exiting the plane and being welcomed by Idriss Deby, the Chadian president.

He will be attending a summit of the Sahel-Saharan states, despite Chad being a signatory of the Rome Statute that binds members to honour arrest warrants issued by the global court.

Al Jazeera's Yvonne Ndege, reporting from Ndjamena, the capital of Chad, said that the streets of the city had been lined with "people just very curious about what may happen upon his arrival, just wanting to get a look at him".

"In terms of the security, it has been extremely tight. For the last 72 hours the streets of the capital have been lined with soldiers. There has been a huge restriction on air travel.

"The mood here is very calm, but of course people are very nervous to see what is going to happen - if anything is going to happen at all."

'Shameful distinction'

Ahmat Mahamat Bachir, Chad's interior and security minister, said that the Sudanese president would not be detained during his visit.

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"We are not obliged to arrest Omar Hassan al-Bashir," he said. "Bashir is a sitting president. I have never seen a sitting president arrested on his travels by the host country."

"[Bashir] came for the [Sahel-Saharan states summit] and he will return home safe and sound."

However, Fadi El Abdallah, an ICC representative in The Hague, said that in Ndjamena was obliged as a signatory of the Rome Statute to comply with the arrest warrant. 

"The main element concerning Chad and all other member states is to implement judges' decisions and co-operate with a request for arrest," Abdallah said.

In a report released on Wednesday, Elise Keppler, a senior counsel of the international justice programme with Human Rights Watch, said: "Chad risks the shameful distinction of being the first ICC member state to harbour a suspected war criminal from the court.

"Chad should not flout its obligations to arrest al-Bashir if he enters Chad."

Last week the ICC, which Bashir refuses to recognise, added three counts of genocide in the western region of Darfur to the list of charges already filed against him.

Troubled relations

Chad became a full member of the ICC in 2007, when relations with its neighbour were at a low point due to Ndjamena's backing of Sudanese rebel groups who mounted an attack on Khartoum.

"Together we have turned, with my brother Bashir, a sombre page in our history"

Idriss Deby,
Chadian president

But things have improved recently and the two nations have agreed to end their support for the rebel groups.

In February, Chad and Sudan agreed to normalise ties after five years of proxy war which involved Chad backing Darfur rebels who opposed Bashir as Sudan supported Chadian rebels hostile to Deby.

"We are in a new phase of the history of our two countries, in the interests of our two peoples," Bashir said shortly after arriving in Ndjamena on Wednesday.

Deby, Bashir's Chadian counterpart, said: "Together we have turned, with my brother Bashir, a sombre page in our history."

Al Jazeera's Mohamed Adow, reporting from the Chadian capital, said: "Bashir is taking a risk here but it's a calculated one.

"If all goes well in this visit, it's going to be a major turning point in terms of relations between Chad and Sudan."

Rebels expelled

Deby made a landmark visit that same month to the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, for the inauguration of Bashir's new presidential term. His trip came just after expelling Khalil Ibrahim, the leader of the powerful Darfur rebel Justice and Equality Movement.

In keeping with the agreement, Sudan expelled three Chadian rebel leaders on Tuesday, the eve of Bashir's scheduled visit to Chad.

Abderaman Koulamallah, a spokesman for the rebels, confirmed their expulsion when asked if Timan Erdimi, Mahamat Nouri and Adouma Hassaballah had been forced to leave Sudan.

"All three chiefs ... left Sudan Tuesday night," he said hours after a Sudanese diplomat had told the AFP news agency that other rebels were on the verge of leaving. They are said to have taken refuge in Qatar.

Koulamallah said he believed that the expulsions were aimed at "improving ties" between Chad and Sudan, but stressed that "the struggle continues".

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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