The visit to Libya this past weekend of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for genocide, is an affront to international justice and an embarrassment to the Libyan people.
The ICC arrest warrant for Qaddafi was a strong step forward for the cause of holding perpetrators of mass atrocities accountable, sending a clear message to future would-be tyrants. However, this latest visit flies in the face of that message sending a dangerous countervailing air of impunity.
It is also troubling that the new leadership of Libyans who fought to free themselves from Qaddafi’s rule would open its arms to another tyrant who continues to target civilians even at this very moment. Surely it is troubling to those countries, like the United States, that stepped forward to help protect Libyan civilians from imminent atrocities in Benghazi. But will voices of criticism be heard?
Only too recently Bashir has gotten away with travel, and indeed red carpet treatment, in China and ICC-signatory Malawi, with hardly a peep of criticism. Voices must be raised to condemn this latest visit for the sake of the Sudanese civilians who continue to suffer under Bashir’s aerial bombardments, for those who face a humanitarian disaster in the coming weeks, and for those who might suffer from other would-be tyrants in the future.
Adding insult to injury Bashir, during his Libya visit, offered to help Libya disarm militias and called on Syria to reform. It is good to see Sudan abandoning previous suggestions of an international conspiracy against Syria, but Bashir is the last person to be criticizing others and the wrong person to be offering help on disarmament. Presumably Bashir was seeking to bolster Sudanese General Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, a former head of military intelligence, who is heading the much maligned Arab League monitoring team in Syria.
This is yet another example of inappropriate and dangerous signaling that requires international condemnation from the United States and others who believe in holding perpetrators of mass atrocities accountable.