October 19, 2011 / 5:29 PM / 9 years ago

Hague court questions Bashir's visit to Malawi

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The International Criminal Court has demanded that Malawi explain why it failed to arrest Sudanese president and genocide suspect Omar al-Bashir during a recent visit, warning it could refer the matter to the United Nations Security Council.

Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir (C) addresses the parliament in Khartoum July 12, 2011. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

Bashir, who is wanted by the ICC on charges of orchestrating genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region, visited the southern African state earlier this month for a regional trade summit.

Judges at the Hague-based war crimes court issued a decision on Wednesday requesting Malawi submit before November 11 “any observations” over its alleged failure to comply with the arrest warrant issued against Bashir.

Malawi’s foreign minister earlier told Reuters the country would not arrest Bashir, citing the “brotherly coexistence” between member states of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, to which it and Sudan belong.

As an ICC member state, Malawi is obligated to co-operate with the court and its arrest warrants.

The court said it sent a note on October 13 to the Malawi embassy in Brussels reminding Malawi of its obligation to arrest Bashir. Malawi has not yet replied, the ICC said.

ICC judges warned that the court, which has also issued an arrest warrant against Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, may in future refer the matter to the U.N. Security Council.

The ICC, the world’s first permanent war crimes court, has no police force of its own and is reliant upon state co-operation to have its arrests suspected.

The court has previously urged the Security Council to take measures against Kenya, Chad and Djibouti for failing to arrest Bashir during state visits. All three are ICC member states.

No Security Council action has been taken, however.

Bashir has been indicted by the ICC on charges he is responsible for the deaths of as many as 300,000 people in Darfur since 2003.

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