Groups decry Bashir’s Nigeria visit

Omar al-Bashir, president of Sudan, faces genocide charge.
Omar al-Bashir, president of Sudan, faces genocide charge.

ABUJA, Nigeria — Sudan’s indicted leader Omar al-Bashir arrived Sunday in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, to a red-carpet welcome and a full guard of honor despite demands from human rights activists that Nigeria arrest him to face trial for genocide in Darfur.

Minister of Police Affairs Kenneth Olubolade was at the airport to meet the private presidential jet Sunday along with troops in ceremonial green and white uniforms and a military brass band.

‘‘Nigeria has the shameful distinction of being the first West African country to welcome ICC fugitive Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir,’’ Human Rights Watch said in a statement.


It said Nigeria’s welcome is ‘‘in stark contrast’’ to the stands taken by other African countries. Only Chad and Djibouti have received Bashir in the past year.

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The Nigerian Coalition on the International Criminal Court said South Africa, Malawi, Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, and Central Africa Republic ‘‘have specifically made clear Bashir will be arrested on their territory.’’

In 2009, the International Criminal Court in The Hague indicted Bashir on charges of genocide and war crimes committed in Darfur. He was the first sitting African head of state indicted by the court.

‘‘Al-Bashir is sought on the gravest crimes committed in Darfur and Nigeria’s hosting is an affront to victims,’’ said Elise Keppler of Human Rights Watch’s International Justice Program.

The African Union has urged its 53 member states not to cooperate with the ICC, a stand that Nigeria may cite as an excuse for allowing Bashir’s visit. No Nigerian officials could be reached for comment Sunday. Some Africans charge that the European-based ICC is racist in targeting Africans.

Associated Press