Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has ended talks in Egypt on his second trip abroad since the International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant for his arrest. Egypt is not a signatory of the ICC's charter, which obliges member states to arrest those indicted if they enter their territory. Bashir - who made a short trip to Eritrea on Monday - is to hold talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Sudan's leader is accused of war crimes in his country's Darfur region.
It is unclear if President Bashir still plans to attend an Arab summit in Qatar later this month. Sudan's highest religious authority said this week Bashir should not go to the summit. The fatwa (or ruling) was issued by the Committee of Islamic Scholars, citing threats from Sudan's enemies.
President Bashir risks being detained if he leaves Sudan under the ICC arrest warrant. He is wanted to stand trial for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. The Sudanese government said shortly after the ICC decision that he would defy the warrant by traveling to the summit in Qatar which is also not an ICC signatory.
Bashir, 65, is accused of two counts of war crimes and five of crimes against humanity in Darfur, in the first ICC warrant for a serving head of state.
Sudan reacted to the ICC indictment by expelling a number of foreign aid agencies, including Oxfam, Care, Save the Children UK and Medecins Sans Frontieres from Darfur. Between them they supply food and water to some 1.5 million people who have fled their homes during the six-year conflict.
The International Criminal Court issued the arrest warrant on March 5th on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. But the court in the Hague stopped short of accusing Omar al-Bashir of genocide. He denies the charges and has dismissed any ICC ruling as worthless.
In a rare interview, a former Sudanese soldier told the BBC that his unit took part in attacks on seven villages in Darfur in 2003 with the help of Janjaweed fighters. The man, who asked for his identity not to be revealed, says he was forcibly recruited and spent more than a year in the army before deserting and fleeing abroad. He told his story to the BBC's Mike Thomson (Mar 4):
(Please note this interview includes a graphic discussion of rape and murder)
Arrest warrant issued (Mar 4)
Christian evangelicals protest Bashir warrant (Mar 4)
Human-rights groups welcomed the ICC decision. "With this arrest warrant, the International Criminal Court has made Omar al-Bashir a wanted man," said Richard Dicker of the New York-based group Human Rights Watch after the warrant was issued. The French charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said it had withdrawn foreign staff from Darfur after the Sudanese government ordered them to leave.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged Sudan to "co-operate fully" with all United Nations entities. He said the UN would "continue to conduct its vital peacekeeping, humanitarian, human rights and development operations and activities in Sudan".
The war crimes court has already issued two arrest warrants - in 2007 - for Sudanese Humanitarian Affairs Minister Ahmed Haroun and the Janjaweed militia leader Ali Abdul Rahman. Sudan has refused to hand them over.