They pursued justice. Instead of sitting idly by while a man wanted for genocide entered their country, the Nigerian Coalition for the International Criminal Court (NCICC) took action.
Omar al-Bashir barely spent a full day in Nigeria when he fled back to Sudan after the NCICC initiated a warrant for his arrest. Bashir was set to attend the 2013 African Union HIV, Malaria and TB Summit, but instead he headed home before the Nigerian courts could act.
Sudanese President, Omar al-Bashir, is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for his part in orchestrating the genocide in Darfur that began in 2003. The conflict left millions displaced and hundreds of thousands dead. The violence persists today in Darfur as well as the southern regions of Sudan including Blue Nile and South Kordofan.
In 2005, the United Nations Security Council referred the case of Darfur to the International Criminal Court, and on March 4, 2009 the ICC issued the first arrest warrant for Bashir. Despite this warrant, Bashir remains free . In fact, Bashir has traveled to 13 nations since the warrant was issued without repercussions. But the Nigerian Coalition for the International Criminal Court stood up to say “Enough!” on this particular trip.
Ahead of the NCICC’s actions, the International Criminal Court issued a statement demanding the Nigerian government arrest Bashir and surrender him to the court. The NCICC followed suite and issued their own statement urging Nigeria, a party member to the ICC, to “stand with the innocent victims of the Darfur conflict, and the rule of law and arrest ICC fugitive Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir or bar him entry into Nigeria.”
Words can have a powerful impact but the NCICC backed these words with swift and powerful action. The NCICC quickly filed legal action with the Nigerian government to arrest Bashir once he was on their soil.
Chino Obiagwu, the chair of the Steering Committee of the NCICC reflected on Bashir’s planned visit and the Nigerian government’s response, “It will amount to grave diplomatic blunder for the Jonathan administration to invite and give full ceremonial reception to war crime indictee, in disregard of millions of victims of Darfur atrocities and their families, some of them Nigeria citizens, who are still crying for justice.”
Bashir did not stick around to see if Nigeria would follow through with the NCICC’s demands and fled to Sudan claiming that his rush home had nothing to do with the civil society’s actions. But we have a different opinion on why he left – he was scared of finally being held accountable. The work of the NCICC sets a clear precedent, if nations aren’t willing to act, civil society should take to the courts to demand action against Bashir.
While Bashir remains free, the swift and powerful action of the NCICC demonstrated to the international community that a wanted man is not free to travel as he pleases. And their actions remind us all that even a small civil society group has the power to make a great impact.
To keep your eye on Bashir and join the efforts to hold him accountable, visit BashirWatch.