ANKARA (Today’s Zaman)–Turkish officials dismissed statements Friday that a planned visit by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes in Darfur, will be a test of Ankara’s support for international justice and said Turkey was heeding the political implications, as well as the court ruling, in debates over Bashir’s future.
The Sudanese president, who in March became the first sitting head of state to be indicted by the ICC at The Hague, is among heads of state and government traveling to Istanbul for an economic summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference’s (OIC).
An official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Turkey was simply playing host to the OIC meeting. “The OIC is the organizer of the summit. … In the past, participants not even recognized by Ankara, such as the GKRY [Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus] were present at such meetings hosted in Turkey,” the official told Today’s Zaman.
The official also signaled that Bashir’s arrest during his visit would be out of the question, underlining that Turkey was not a party to the 2002 Rome Statute, which established the ICC, thus is not bound by the court’s ruling for his arrest. A UN Security Council resolution regarding the matter also does not contain language strong enough to create a compelling legal obligation for UN members to cooperate with the ICC in all the steps that it would take in the Darfur situation, the official went on.
The official said Ankara was taking into account both the legal dimension as well as the political and practical implications that implementation of the ICC ruling would create.
“There is an ongoing comprehensive peace process which is trying to be implemented there. This process is very sensitive, when one also takes into consideration the fact that general elections and a referendum are ahead. The international community should let this process function in a robust way so that the Sudanese can make their own decision, but they should not be imposed on to make any particular decision,” the anonymous source went on to say.
“If we ignore the political perspective and look at the matter only from the legal viewpoint, this could be problematic,” they warned.
Meanwhile, activists, speaking with Reuters, said there was sure to be opposition from civil society to the visit, suggesting that Turkey, as a UN member, had obligations to arrest Bashir. The Turkish Coalition for the ICC is expected to release a statement today confirming that arresting Bashir is also an obligation for Turkey because of articles relating to war crimes in the Turkish Penal Code (TCK).