At a news conference on Sunday, September 22, 2013, Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir confirmed his travel plans to speak at the UN General Assembly meeting in New York City. Bashir is charged with ten counts of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes for his role in the mass atrocities in Darfur that have occurred over the past decade.
Bashir stated that he has already booked a hotel in New York City and will be flying via Morocco. For Bashir to get to Morocco, he must travel 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.
One possible flight path would take Bashir from the capital of Sudan, Khartoum, over Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. Both Algeria and Morocco are signatories to the ICC, while Tunisia is a ratified member. The other path would take Bashir across Chad, Niger and Algeria before reaching Morocco. Chad and Niger are ICC parties as well and could possibly restrict his flight.
Bashir’s travel should be stopped on either path. The President of the ICC Assembly of States Parties said last week, “I remind States Parties on whose territory the indictee might appear while in transit of their obligation to arrest and surrender Mr. Omar Al-Bashir to the ICC.
Since Morocco has not ratified the ICC, the country is not required to arrest President Bashir but there is precedent for non-state parties to the ICC to assist with arrest and delivery to the ICC. In March of 2013, African warlord, General Bosco Ntaganda, surrendered himself to the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda and requested to be delivered to the ICC. The United States, which is not a member of the court, obliged with his request and handed him over to the authorities. Morocco could take similar action.
The African countries Bashir’s plane must fly over to arrive in the United States should deny him access to their airspace, thereby stopping Bashir in his tracks. In August, Saudia Arabia, though not expressing why, refused Bashir access to their airspace. Now is the time for all countries surrounding Sudan to do the same.