Amnesty International yesterday revealed that Nigerian President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua has issued an invitation to Sudanese President Omar al Bashir to visit Nigeria even though President al Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The invitation is for President Omar al Bashir to attend an African Union Peace and Security Council meeting in Abuja, scheduled to begin on Thursday, 29 October 2009.
Amnesty International said that it learned about the still-secret invitation from several reliable sources.
Former South African President Thabo Mbeki is expected to present a report on the situation in Darfur at the meeting.
President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua has apparently given assurances that President Omar al Bashir will not be arrested if he comes to Nigeria.
â€œHe is an international fugitive from justice, charged with responsibility for crimes against humanity and war crimes against Africans. It would be shameful of Nigeria to offer him safe haven,â€ said Kolawole Olaniyan, Amnesty Internationalâ€™s Africa Legal Adviser.
â€œThe Nigerian government has an unconditional legal obligation to arrest President Omar al Bashir and hand him over to the ICC should he enter Nigerian territory. Any failure to do this is a failure to fulfil obligations under international law and may amount to obstruction of justice.â€
An arrest warrant for President Omar al Bashir was issued by the ICC on 4 March 2009.
â€œThe Nigerian government must act for the sake of thousands of victims of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Darfur,â€ said Kolawole Olaniyan.
Nigeria is a party to the treaty establishing the ICC and is obliged without exception to cooperate with the ICC and arrest and surrender anyone named in an arrest warrant to the ICC. If it fails to do so, the ICC can refer this clear violation of Nigeriaâ€™s obligations to the Security Council under Article 87 (7) of that treaty.