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Africa

Sudan’s Al-Bashir leaves AU summit in Nigeria

Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has left Nigeria after human rights activists demanded his arrest on war crimes charges. Nigeria previously handed former Liberian warlord Charles Taylor to the ICC.

Mohammed Moiz, spokesman for the Sudanese embassy in Nigeria, confirmed to news agency AFP that President Bashir had departed from Nigeria. "He has left. He left in the afternoon (on Monday)."

Some of the residents of Kalma camp, for internally displaced persons (IDPs), in Nyala, South Darfur. EPA/ALBERT GONZALEZ FARRAN / UNAMID / HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++

The Darfur conflict has displaced 1.4 million people, according to the UN

However, Moiz denied Bashir had flown out due to calls for his arrest but said he had another engagement.

President Bashir has been charged by prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC) with masterminding genocide and other crimes against humanity in Sudan's Darfur region. The conflict has left some 200,000 people dead.

Bashir arrived in Nigeria on Sunday (14.7.2013) for an African Union summit on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. His presence in Africa's most populous nation angered human rights groups who said he should not have been invited. The meeting is due to end on Tuesday.

Unwelcome guest

Human rights lawyers in Nigeria filed a suit in the Federal High Court on Monday to compel President Goodluck Jonathan's government to arrest al-Bashir.

Lawyer Chino Obiagwu, who heads the Nigerian Coalition on the ICC (NCICC), told DW's Hausa service they made their decision based on the arrest warrant already issued by the International Criminal Court.

Fighters of the Justice and Equality (JEM) Movement (Photo: ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP/Getty Images)

The war in Darfur has been fought for a decade since 2003

"We think Nigeria has an obligation to arrest and surrender Bashir to the ICC," Obiagwu said, adding that the invitation to President Omar al-Bashir "was a diplomatic mistake by the Jonathan administration."

In response, the Nigerian minister of foreign affairs, Professor Viola Onwiliri, told DW correspondent Ubale Musa that Bashir was in Nigeria as a member of the African Union. "Nigeria is hosting an AU summit, the AU is responsible for those they invite and those they host at this meeting," the country's top diplomat said.

The AU factor

Asked whether Nigeria would comply with the warrant of arrest for al-Bashir, Onwiliri said her country had no hand in who the African Union chooses to invite.

Obiagwu disagrees with Nigeria's position. "If al-Bashir was visiting the AU office in Addis Ababa, where the African Union has a diplomatic territorial control, then that would be understandable but not Nigeria, because the AU is not stationed in Nigeria," Obiagwu said. According to him, even though Bashir was attending an AU summit, he had to come on the invitation of Nigeria.

"The Nigerian government had to permit him to arrive in the country, so it's not true to say that Nigeria cannot arrest and detain him or would not have stopped his coming because he was attending an AU summit," Obiagwu said.

The African Union voted in 2009 not to cooperate with the ICC indictments against Bashir.

A plaque outside the headquarters complex of the African Union (AU), which was a gift by the government of China. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

AU headquarters in Addis Ababa. Ethiopia has not signed the ICC treaty

The pan-African body has on numerous occasions accused the European-based court of targeting Africans.

In the past, Nigeria was forced to hand over former Liberian President Charles Taylor who was wanted by the ICC. The warlord, who began that country's devastating civil war in 1989, was sentenced to 50 years in prison by the ICC in May 2013. He was found guilty of being responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in neighboring Sierra Leone.

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