Africa

Bashir warrant: Chad accuses ICC of anti-African bias

Chad has accused the International Criminal Court of only targeting African leaders, as it justifies its decision not to arrest Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir.

Chad's ambassador to the US told the BBC that justice suffers if it is unfair.

The ICC accuses Mr Bashir of war crimes and genocide - which he denies.

Chad is the first ICC signatory Mr Bashir has visited since he was indicted in 2009.

All of the five cases the ICC is currently dealing with are in Africa but The Hague-based court says it is up to member states to refer cases for it to investigate.

It was set up to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

The ICC's chief prosecutor rejects the accusation of bias against Africa, saying not only are the worst crimes being committed in the continent, but the victims are also African.

The African Union and the Arab League have always opposed the ICC's decision to issue the arrest warrants issued over the conflict in Darfur.

Chad's ambassador Ahmat Mahamat Bachir said it was merely following the AU's lead, despite a storm of protest from human rights groups.

"We are with the rule of law and everybody has to pay for his mistakes and for any crime he commits but when it will be selectively and targeting only African leaders it should not be accepted," he told the BBC's World Today programme.

He said there were many other leaders who deserved to be treated in the same way as Mr Bashir but he declined to name them.

Mr Bashir is charged with arming Arab militias accused of attacking black African civilians in Darfur after rebel groups took up arms in 2003.

The UN estimates the conflict has cost the lives of some 300,000 people and displaced a further 2.7 million.

The Sudanese government puts the death toll at 10,000 and says the problems in the region have been exaggerated for political reasons.

Mr Bashir is in Chad for a summit of the regional bloc, Community of Sahel-Saharan States (Censad).

Chad and Sudan have previously been accused of fighting proxy wars through rebel groups in the other country and Chad's ambassador said the international community had urged the two countries to improve relations in order to bring peace to Darfur.

"When you normalise [relations] with a country, you are not going to arrest the head of state," he said.

An ICC spokesman said Chad was obliged to implement its judges' decisions and co-operate with the request for Mr Bashir to be arrested.

Human rights organisations condemned the Chadian authorities.

"Chad risks the shameful distinction of being the first ICC member state to harbour a suspected war criminal from the court," said Elise Keppler of Human Rights Watch.

Amnesty International also called on Chad not to shield Mr Bashir and said the visit was an opportunity for justice.

BBC East Africa correspondent Will Ross says the next decision for Mr Bashir is whether to attend this weekend's African Union summit in Uganda.

The African Union has accused the ICC of targeting the continent and recommended its members do not co-operate, but like Chad, Uganda is a signatory of the court.

Relations between Sudan and Uganda have blown hot and cold so often that Mr Bashir may well decide not to ride his luck and instead head home, our correspondent says.

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