Nigeria says it almost arrested Sudanese President during visit

Nigeria has said it was already making plans to arrest and hand over Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court (ICC) during his recent visit to Nigeria for an African Union (AU) Summit, before he cut short his visit and fled the country.
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According to the online Nigerian newspaper Premium Times on Thursday, the revelation was contained in a letter to the ICC by Nigeria’s Attorney General and Justice Minister Mohammed Adoke.

Mr. Adoke was said to have explained that President al-Bashir left the country “at the time officials of relevant bodies and agencies of the Federal Government were already considering the necessary steps to be taken in respect of his visit in line with Nigeria’s international obligations.”

Mr. Adoke said Nigeria did not invite the Sudanese President, who is wanted by the ICC for war crimes and crimes against humanity in his country’s Western Darfur region.

He said President al-Bashir was in Nigeria to “ostensibly attend” a two-day AU Summit on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, hence he did not need an invitation from Nigeria to attend the summit.

PANA reports that on arrival at the Nigerian capital, Abuja, for the July Summit, the Sudanese President was given a red-carpet reception. He however left Nigeria less than 24 hours after he arrived.

The visit was criticised by civil society organisations as well as the US and the EU, all of which argued that Nigeria, as a signatory to the ICC statute, had an obligation to arrest and hand over President al-Bashir to the ICC.

The Nigerian government responded by saying it could not arrest the Sudanese leader because he was in the country for an AU summit.

The AU has decided not to cooperate with the ICC on President al-Bashir’s indictment.