Friday, November 20, 2009

COP 15's offensive invitation

So here's the story of the day! :

I'm excited for the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen this December. Even as the US stalls on climate change legislation and remains uncommitted to signing long term treaties at the meeting, I am eager to see what the conference will, or will not achieve and I remain hopeful that the issue of climate change will remain at the forefront of national and international debate.

But Climate Change May Not be the Only thing Heating up COP 15.

Amnesty learned today that the one and only President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir of Sudan has been invited by the Danish government to attend the Climate Change Conference. Oh snap!

Al Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Bashir is held responsible for "masterminding and implementing" much of the violence that has occurred in Darfur. Violence that the US describes as a genocide.

Amnesty describes the situation in Darfur in its news release today stating:"Hundreds of thousands of people are believed to have lost their lives since the Darfur conflict erupted in February 2003. Systematic human rights abuses have occurred, including killing, torture, rape, looting and destroying of property by all parties involved in the conflict, but primarily by the Sudanese government and government-backed Janjawid militia. Over 2 million civilians have been internally displaced by the conflict and more than 215,000 have sought refuge in neighboring Chad."

If Al Bashir were to travel to Denmark, Danish authorities must arrest him and turn Al Bashir over the ICC. Denmark is a signatory to the Rome Statute that established the ICC and the nation is legally obligated to abide by the international law of the court.

So is this a less than sneaky trap? Does Denmark think that Al Bashir will forget the international warrant for his arrest and saunter into the Climate Change Conference with his head held high and his invitation in hand?

Unlikely. The Sudanese president cancelled his planned visit to Turkey (another nation held to the Rome Statute) earlier this month after being invited by the Turkish government to attend the Organisation of the Islamic Conference.

I'm not sure what is more troubling - the possibility that world leaders believe that inviting Al Bashir to leave the safety of Sudan to attend international conferences would actually be effective and lead to his capture or that despite the fact that Al Bashir is wanted for crimes against humanity he still receives invitations to the premiere events of world politics.

I doubt Al Bashir will go to Copenhagen. Looking at his travel history since the ICC issued the warrant for his arrest last spring, the Sudanese President is clearly unwilling to visit any nation that could possibly arrest him and bring him before the court.

Denmark's decision to invite Al Bashir to Copenhagen is at best tactless and from the perspective of those who believe in the protection of human rights, Denmark's invitation is offensive.

Treating Al Bashir like a true world leader, someone who is responsible to the citizens of his nation as well as the global public is unprecedented based on his legacy as president. Al Bashir lost the last of his legitimacy as a leader by escaping the ICC warrant earlier this year. It is shocking to think that a man wanted for enabling the systematic destruction of his people can be given the international respect of representing his nation at COP15.

It is tragic that the people of Sudan remain ruled over by an outlaw who continues to allow mass violence and brutality in the nation but it is idiotic to think that the fact that Al Bashir calls himself president makes this criminal worthy of international respect.

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