Here are the answers to your top 5 questions related to President Bashir’s proposed travel plans to the U.S. to attend the UN General Assembly.
What has been the reaction to news of Bashir’s planned travel?
- Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the UN: Ambassador Power called Bashir’s potential visit “deplorable, cynical and hugely inappropriate,” but the State Department has still not stated whether they will grant Bashir a visa or not.
- State Department: State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf stated that “we condemn any potential effort” by Bashir to attend the General Assembly meeting and went on to suggest that that before presenting himself to the UN headquarters, Bashir should present himself to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to answer for his crimes in Darfur.
- International Criminal Court: Last week, ICC judges “invited the competent US authorities to arrest Omar Al Bashir and surrender him to the Court, in the event he enters their territory.”
- Celebrities: George Clooney, Don Cheadle, Mia Farrow, and several leading human rights groups wrote an open letter to President Obama expressing great concern over a requested visit by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to the United States.
- Members of Congress:
- Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) wrote a letter to President Obama expressing his outrage over Bashir’s proposed visit and urged the White House to “exercise every measure available to inhibit Sudan’s ability to come to the United States, and should he arrive on our shores, to proscribe his movements to the absolute minimum…and should the legal possibility present itself, I ask you to take President Bashir into custody and deliver him to the International Criminal Court.”
- Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) sent a scathing letter to the White House, acknowledging that while the U.S. as a host country has certain obligations, allowing someone responsible for genocide into the U.S. would compromise moral legitimacy, embolden war criminals and entrench Bashir. Wolf said that if Bashir is allowed into the United States, he should be arrested.
Can the U.S. legally deny Bashir a visa?
The bad news: The United States abides by an agreement with the UN not to “impose any impediments to transit to or from the headquarters district of representatives of Members or officials of the United Nations.” This means Sudan is legally permitted to send an official (in this case, Bashir) to attend the UN General Assembly.
The good news: There appears to be legal backing to deny Bashir’s visit and to arrest him should he land on U.S. soil.
- The UN Headquarters Agreement includes a “security reservation”. This was cited by the United States in 1998 to deny a visa to Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yassir Arafat. The United States was challenged by the UN Legal Counsel at the time and it is not clear that the legal case could be made for Bashir directly threatening U.S. national security, but the unprecedented attempted visit of a head of state wanted by the International Criminal Court and President Obama’s Directive that prevention genocide and mass atrocities is a “core national security interest” may offer justification for a visa denial.
- The Genocide Accountability Act of 2007 allows the prosecution of acts constituting genocide committed by an alleged offender who is “brought into, or found in, the United States, even if the offense occurred outside the United States.” This means that the U.S. could file its own separate lawsuit against Bashir.
- United Nations Security Council, in its Resolution 1593 (2005), while referring the situation in Darfur to the Court, urges all States and concerned regional and other international organizations to cooperate fully with the Court which has issued warrants for his arrest. As a member of the United Nations Security Council, the United States is then obligated to cooperate with the International Criminal Court and execute Bashir’s arrest warrant and turn him over the ICC.
- Bonus: Despite not being a member party to the International Criminal Court, the United States has cooperated with the Court in the past. In March of 2013, Rwandan warlord Bosco Ntaganda surrendered himself to the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda and requested to be transferred to the ICC. The U.S. obliged and handed him over to authorities.
Can the U.S. arrest Bashir and transfer him to the ICC?
Yes. Despite not being a member state of the ICC, the U.S. is a member of the UN Security Council, which referred the case in Darfur to the ICC. The ICC urges all States and concerned regional and other international organizations to cooperate fully with the Court which has issued warrants for his arrest.
What is United to End Genocide doing about it?
- Demanding justice for the victims of the Darfur genocide by telling the White House directly that President Obama must do everything in his power to prevent Bashir from entering the U.S. and work to ensure that he ends up where he deserves — at the International Criminal Court. Add your voice and call for Bashir’s arrest!
- We are calling on the African countries Bashir’s plane must fly over to arrive in the United States to him access to their airspace, thereby stopping Bashir in his tracks. His intended route via Morocco would take him over the airspace of state parties to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Even though Bashir claims that he has received clearance for flight from Sudan to Morocco, the Rome Statute mandates that any member of the ICC must arrest and deliver any person accused of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and/or crimes of aggression to the international court for prosecution.
- Supporting a U.S. lawsuit against Bashir
- Organizing a dramatic, highly visibile protest action outside the United Nations in New York
- Creating an opportunity for victims of Bashir and their families to speak truth to power at the UN.
- Supporting Darfuri Diaspora as they plan to protest Bashir’s despicable visit to the U.S.
- We joined George Clooney, Don Cheadle, Mia Farrow, and several leading human rights groups in an open letter to President Obama expressing great concern over a requested visit by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to the United States.
What can I do?
- When you talk, our government officials listen. Tell President Obama to arrest Bashir should he step foot on U.S. soil.
- Are you in New York? Join the Darfur People’s Association of New York today, September 24 from 2:00-4:00 PM for a rally to urge the UN, UNSC and the U.S. to stand for justice for the victims of genocide in Darfur and all Sudan. Details here.
- Ask your friends to join in the call to arrest Bashir. The more voices, the stronger the call.
- Twitter: Join me in standing w/ #Darfur victims & telling the @WhiteHouse to arrest Bashir should he step foot on US soil: http://bit.ly/18lqDno
- Facebook: Sudanese President and architect of the Darfur genocide announced his intention to travel to New York this week to attend the UN General Assembly. Join me in calling for his arrest should he step foot on U.S. soil: http://bit.ly/18lqDno
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