Malawi dismisses HRW demands to arrest fugitive al-Bashir

Malawi government says it will not arrest Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir on an international war crimes warrant as demanded by Human Rights Watch, saying it will allow the Bashir to attend the regional trade summit in Lilongwe.

The New York-based group’s senior counsel on international justice, Elise Keppler, urged Malawi not to host Bashir and arrest him.

“Al-Bashir is an international fugitive wanted on charges of heinous crimes — including genocide — committed in Darfur. Malawi should arrest him, not host him,” he said.

Omar-al-Bashir: Sudan president wanted by ICC

But Deputy Foreign Minister Kondwani Nankhumwa said Malawi cannot effect an arrested to Bashir, stressing he will be a welcomed guest of President Bingu wa Mutharika.

“Malawi government will not arrest President Bashir. He is a free person in Malawi,” Nankhumwa said.

He said Mutharika administration will accord the fugitive leader all the protocols the head of state deserves at the meeting of the 19-member Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) which opens on Friday.

The ICC issued an arrest warrant last year for Bashir on charges of orchestrating genocide. crimes against humanity and war crimes in Sudan’s troubled Darfur region, where as many as 300,000 people have died since 2003.

Malawi has ratified the Rome Statute, the ICC’s founding document, which obliges the country to arrest him if al-Bashir enters the country.

President Mutharika, himself also accused of orchestrating  crimes against humanity,  said in March that African leaders should not be dragged to ICC  for crimes committed in Africa, preferring local jurisdiction.

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