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General News of Friday, 3 October 2008

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Al-Bashir Skips Town

The Sudanese President Omer Hassan Al-Bashir left abruptly from Accra, where a two-day summit of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP Group) was in progress.

Sudan state media had announced that Al-Bashir will be attending the summit for which he held its chairmanship. There was no mention of a condensed itinerary. The Sudanese head of state was the ACP bloc president since December 2006 when Sudan hosted the fifth summit of the 79 member body.

Al-Bashir’s visit to Accra came amidst a pending arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

In mid-July the ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo announced that he is seeking an arrest warrant for Al-Bashir.

The ICC’s prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo filed 10 charges: three counts of genocide, five of crimes against humanity and two of murder. It was only last week that judges have started reviewing the case in a process that could possibly drag on to next year.

The ICC Pre-Trial Chamber I headed by Ghanaian Judge Akua Kuenyehia held a closed meeting with Ocampo regarding his application.

Ghana as a member of the ICC has an obligation to apprehend Al-Bashir if an arrest warrant is issued while on its territories.

However Ghanaian officials made it clear that they have no plans to carry out an arrest.

Mahjoub Hussein, the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM-Unity) spokesperson said in a statement released today that he sent an “urgent” letter to Ghanaian president John Kufuor urging him to arrest Al-Bashir until ICC judges make a ruling on his arrest warrant.

This is the second foreign visit by Al-Bashir since ICC indictment after Turkey and the first to an ICC member country.

However at the time the Sudanese president hinted in an interview with Reuters that he may only visit countries which are not members of the ICC.

“We are not concerned about traveling, ourselves, we have good relations with a number of countries that do not have relations with the ICC” he said.

Some observers have said that Al-Bashir travel to Accra was confirmed only after receiving assurances from Ghanaian officials that he would not be arrested.

Khartoum announced that Al-Bashir would make the trip a few days after the ICC Judges scheduled the October 1st meeting with the prosecutor to discuss the case.

Al-Bashir upon his return from the ACP Group was received at Khartoum Airport by his 2nd Vice President Ali Osman Taha.

Mohamed El-Samani El-Wasila, the State minister for Foreign Affairs, told the Sudan official news agency (SUNA) that Al-Bashir transferred the ACP presidency to his Ghanaian counterpart John Kufuor

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