[dehai-news] (Reuters) Sudan scholars tell president to drop Qatar trip

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From: Biniam Haile \(SWE\) (eritrea.lave@comhem.se)
Date: Sun Mar 22 2009 - 07:29:15 EST

Sudan scholars tell president to drop Qatar trip

Sun Mar 22, 2009 10:29am GMT
By Andrew Heavens
KHARTOUM, March 22 (Reuters) - Islamic scholars have told Sudan's
president not to travel to an Arab summit in Qatar at the end of March,
state media reported on Sunday, a move that offers him a way out of the
risky trip.
President Omar Hassan al-Bashir risks being detained if he leaves Sudan
because the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for
him earlier this month for war crimes and crimes against humanity in
The Sudanese government said shortly after the ICC decision that Bashir
would defy the warrant by travelling to the Doha summit -- and Khartoum
later confirmed the visit by formally accepting an invitation from the
Qatari government.
But a series of senior Sudanese officials have released statements in
recent days raising questions over the wisdom of the trip, prompting
speculation that they were preparing the ground for a decision to send
another representative instead.
The influential Sudan Ulema Authority issued a statement late on
Saturday saying Bashir should not travel, the state Sudanese Media
Centre reported.
International experts say at least 200,000 people have been killed and
more than 2.7 million driven from their homes in almost six years of
fighting in Darfur, a mainly desert region in western Sudan. Khartoum
says 10,000 people have died.
The conflict flared when mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms against the
government, demanding better representation and accusing Khartoum of
neglecting the development of the region.
The government mobilised mostly Arab militias to crush the revolt and
denied accusations that it committed genocide during the
The government is not bound by rulings from the Ulema Authority, but the
body of scholars is widely respected in Sudan and has real authority.
The statement said the authority advised Bashir in a fatwa, or Islamic
legal ruling, that it was "impermissible for you to travel for this
mission, which others can do in your place".
"It is no secret to you that the enemy is lurking around you and your
country and your religion," it added, citing precedents from history
where Islamic leaders and forces had decided on caution as the best
option in their campaigns.
Qatar is not a member of the International Criminal Court and would have
no legal obligation to arrest the president if he entered its territory.
The ICC chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, has warned in the past
that any plane carrying Bashir in international airspace could be
intercepted, though the court has no enforcement apparatus of its own.
Before the authority issued its statement, Sudanese presidential
spokesman Mahjoub Fadul told Reuters the government had not decided
whether Bashir would attend the Qatar summit.
Fadul said security arrangements had been put in place in case Bashir
did make the journey. He was not immediately available for comment on
The Arab League and the African Union, backed by China and Russia, have
called on the U.N. Security Council to use its power to suspend the ICC
indictment of Bashir. The United States, Britain and France have said
they see no point in halting his prosecution. (Editing by Tim Pearce)


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