Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is indicted for war crimes, has cancelled his plans to address a high-level meeting of world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly’s general debate, according to U.N. officials and diplomats.
"We understand he is not coming and we’re glad he’s not coming," said Christian Wenaweser, the U.N. ambassador of Liechtenstein and former president of the Assembly of States Parties to the International Criminal Court. "We think it would have been bad for the United Nations to hose someone who has been issued and international arrest warrant."
The move followed several days of diplomatic efforts by the United States to convince Bashir not to come to New York, warning that it could not guarantee he would not be subject to arrest, according to U.N.-based diplomats. And it saved the Obama administration the embarrassment of hosting a visit by the world’s most prominent alleged war criminal.
Bashir, who was indicted in 2009 and 2010 by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide, announced plans to travel to the United Nations to address the annual gathering of presidents, prime ministers, and monarchs. He had even booked rooms at a hotel in midtown Manhattan.
The prospect of a visit by Bashir created a political dilemma for Washington, which is bound by a 1947 agreement with the global body to allow foreign diplomats safe passage to the United Nations, but has come under intensive pressure from lawmakers and human rights advocates to arrest the Sudanese leader.
Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA), who has been active on Sudan matters for years, urged the Obama administration to arrest Bashir. "I recognize that the U.S. has host country obligations as it relates to the United Nations," Wolf wrote earlier today in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. "However, is there not a higher moral obligation to take concrete steps to bring an internationally indicted war criminal, with blood on his hands, to justice?"
The Hague-based court first issued an arrest warrant against Bashir in 2009, charging him with war crimes and crimes against humanity for his alleged role in orchestrating the mass killing of more than 300,000 people in Darfur. A second arrest warrant accusing him of genocide was issued in 2010.
Sudan, which is not a party to the Rome Statute that established the ICC, has refused to surrender Bashir to the Hague court. And Bashir has repeatedly defied the court’s arrest warrant, traveling to at least a dozen countries, including China, Egypt, Kenya, and Nigeria. But it appears the United States won’t be added to that list.
Ty McCormick contributed to this report.