UK, EU, watchdogs hit Mutharika for hosting ‘fugitive’ Bashir

Britain and human rights groups in Malawi and international watchdogs have criticised the Bingu wa Mutharika administration for hosting Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted for war crimes in Darfur.

Bashir arrived in Malawi on Thursday where he was welcomed with a military honour guard and attended r a regional trade summit with the Mutharika government according him full VVIP treatment despite facing a warrant of arrest issued by International Criminal Court (ICC).

UK Foreign Office Minister Henry Bellingham   a statement that London was “disappointed “that Malawi hosted Bashir “in defiance of International Criminal Court arrest warrants for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.”

He said: “he British government expects the Government of Malawi to stand by its obligations under the Rome Statute, and as a UN member state. The Government of Malawi has committed itself to full cooperation with the ICC, and I reiterate the importance that the British government places on such commitments.

Fugitive Bashir being welcomed by Malawi speaker of parliament Henry Chimunthu Banda. Photo; AFP

“We support the work of the ICC as an independent judicial body. All countries should cooperate with the ICC investigations in accordance with UN Security Council Resolutions, and the particular legal obligations of States Party to the ICC. “

European Union (EU) said  Malawi is a state party to the Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court and urged the government  “to respect its obligations under international law”  to comply with the ICC.

“Genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes must not go unpunished and their prosecution must be ensured by measures at both domestic and international level,” a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement.

And Malawian watchdogs, the Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC), Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), Centre for Development of People (CEDEP) Non Governmental Organization, Gender Coordination Network (NGO GCN) strongly echo the voices of concern in calling upon the Malawi Government to immediately facilitate the arrest of Sudanese President and hand him over to ICC.

“President Al-Bashir has been charged with war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Therefore playing host to President Al-Bashir in Malawi without executing these warrants is not only a failure on Malawi Government to uphold its obligations as a party to the Rome Statutes but it is also putting unnecessary and undue strain on the already bruised human rights record for this country,” a statement by the local groups made available to Nyasa Times said.

The local NGOs said they learnt with “shock “to hear from Malawi government spokesperson Patricia Kaliati on BBC that Malawi has no mandate to arrest Al Bashir.

“This is a lame excuse that is only aimed at misleading people and also shielding President Al Bashir. As indicated earlier on Malawi government has the mandate to facilitate the execution of arrest warrants,” the statement said.

Malawi watchdogs said the impoverished southern African nation cannot afford to further isolate itself with the international community.

“While we are still grappling with mending our international image in as far as human rights is concern, it is does not help for Malawi to be associating itself with an ‘international fugitive’ for the same reasons of disregard to human rights and good governance,” the statement signed by Undule Mwakasungula (CHRR), Gift Trapence (CEDEP), Rev MacDonald Sembereka (HRCC) and    Rodgers Newa (NGO),   said.

Also adding their voice were Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Germany’s Green Party.

“While it is certainly in the interest of President al-Bashir to expand the range of countries where he is seen to be able to travel with impunity, it is certainly not in Malawi’s interest to be considered a safe haven for war criminals,” said another statement by No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) and the Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty (NRPTT) from Brussels.

Bashir is the first sitting president indicted by the International Criminal Court, which issued a warrant for his arrest on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

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