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Rwanda defends wanted Bashir’s visit

Rwandan Foreign minister Louise Mushikiwabo talks with UN Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa Carlos Lopes during the July 10-18, 2016 African Union Summit in Kigali.

Rwandan Foreign minister Louise Mushikiwabo talks with UN Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa Carlos Lopes during the July 10-18, 2016 African Union Summit in Kigali.

Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo has defended Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s expected visit to Kigali, despite an arrest warrant against him by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

President Bashir, who is wanted by the ICC for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Darfur, is expected to arrive in Rwanda on Saturday for the African Union (AU) heads of state summit that will take place over the weekend.

The first warrant for President Bashir’s arrest was issued in March 2009 and the second in July 2010, but no country that he has travelled to since then has implemented the warrants.

Heads of state

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Ms Mushikiwabo said Rwanda would welcome President Bashir and went on to criticise the ICC for being politically motivated and biased against Africa.

“Rwanda respects deeply the decisions taken by the AU, which requested that heads of state, if they have crimes reported against them, have immunity as long as they are on official duty,” she said.

“The ICC has a lot of politics. No one can argue against this. Its establishment was welcomed by many countries in 2002, but along the way, it focused more on politicised agendas and not its mandate. For example, there is no explanation whatsoever as to why the ICC focuses on Africa and ignores the West,” the minister said.

Wanted to withdraw

She also said that many African countries wanted to withdraw from the ICC and instead, focus on strengthening a continental justice body – all of which were issues that would be discussed at the heads of state summit which President Bashir was expected to be part of.

“Withdrawal of multiple countries from the ICC is part of the discussions that will come up during the heads of state meeting. There is no conclusion yet but it has been discussed already in the last two years,” she said.

The ICC stated that it does not try individuals unless they were present – and that until President Bashir was arrested and transferred to Hague – the case would remain in pre-trial stage.

Arrest warrants

On Tuesday, the ICC referred the governments of Uganda and Djibouti to the UN Security Council for failing to arrest President Bashir when he visited them in May.

Unlike Rwanda, both Uganda and Djibouti are signatories to the Rome Statute and were obliged to implement the arrest warrants.

South Africa too came under criticism from the ICC last year in June when it declined to arrest President Bashir when he visited the country.

Observers argue that President Bashir’s undisturbed travels within Africa, despite the ICC arrest warrant, highlighted the court’s weaknesses, particularly in Africa where many of its signatories were contemplating a withdrawal.

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