Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has cancelled a trip to Indonesia at the last minute, a government official has said, in what would have been his first journey outside of Africa or the Middle East in nearly four years.
Bashir’s plan to attend the Asia-African leaders conference in the capital Jakarta, which begins on Wednesday, sparked protests among rights groups, who want the president to be arrested.
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The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant in 2009 accusing him of war crimes and crimes against humanity related to the conflict in Sudan’s western region of Darfur. Indonesia is not an ICC member.
“Because he is busy monitoring the post-elections operations, the country’s leadership saw it best for President Omar al-Bashir to stay in the country,” said Sudan’s foreign ministry spokesman Ali al-Sadiq.
Sudan’s minister of foreign affairs will instead lead the country’s delegation at the Asian-African summit.
A conference organiser confirmed Bashir will not be attending, but declined to say why.
A news conference about the issue was scheduled to take place later on Tuesday in Jakarta.
Rights groups welcomed Bashir’s cancelled trip.
“These developments reinforce al-Bashir’s status as a fugitive from international justice with limited travel options,” said Elise Keppler, associate director of the International Justice Programme at Human Rights Watch.
Bashir’s last visit outside of the region was to China in June 2011, though he has continued travelling to Arab and African states since then.
Most of Bashir’s visits have been to non-ICC states such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, where he travelled in March.
He also went to member states that have declined to arrest him, such as Nigeria, which hosted the Sudanese president in July 2013.
The ICC does not have its own police force but relies on member states to detain suspects.