Malawi has sent a response to the Hague based International Criminal Court (ICC) following a request to submit an explanation on why it failed to arrest Sudanese ruler Omar Hassan al-Bashir during his recent visit to the country.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Arthur-Peter Mutharika – a professor at law – issued the explanation after ICC judges queried the country’s inaction when Bashir, facing ten counts of war charges, crimes against humanity and genocide he allegedly masterminded in the Darfur region, was in Malawi for Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) summit.
The judges of the ICC issued a statement on October 18, 2011 to Malawi through her Embassy at the European Union in Brussels, Belgium requesting it to submit a report on the matter before Friday, 11 November 2011.
Malawi has since met the deadline and in the response obtained by Nyasa Times, ministry of foreign affairs said Malawi could not arrest Bashir on the basis that Sudan is not party to the Rome Statute, arguing that Article 27 of the Rome Statute which “waives the immunity of the Heads of State and Government” was not, therefore, applicable.
The statement said Malawi gave Bashir all the immunities and privileges guaranteed to every visiting Head of State and Government which include “freedom from arrest and prosecution within the territories of Malawi.”
In the response, Malawi said being a signatory to the Rome Statute; it reconfirms her unflinching commitment to the Rome Statute in combating impunity and ensuring that the world is free of heinous crimes like those specified in the Statute.
Malawi further said “as a member of the African Union, fully aligns itself with the position adopted by the African Union with respect to the indictment of the sitting Heads of State and Government of countries that are not state parties to the Rome Statute.”
Despite Malawi being a member of the ICC, President Bingu wa Mutharika, another tyrant, is a known critic of the court and this was confirmed during his era as the chairman of African Union in 2010 when he implore fellow African Presidents not to allow African leaders to be dragged to the Hague for offences they commit on the African continent.
Since an arrest warrant was issued to Bashir, only Malawi, Kenya, Chad and Djibouti are the only African ICC members that have so far allowed the Sudanese dictator to freely visit their countries.