US opposes Sudan President visit to Libya
WASHINGTON - The United States on Monday opposed a visit to Libya by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir as he is wanted internationally for charges of genocide and war crimes in Sudan's Darfur region.
"We did raise this issue with Libyan officials," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, admitting that Washington raised the issue "relatively late" because it had not been immediately aware of the visit.
"The Libyan government knows our view that we oppose invitations, facilitation or support for travel by President Bashir because he is the subject of an ICC (International Criminal Court) arrest warrant," she said.
"We have a long policy of urging other nations to do the same," Nuland said.
"We have also said to the Libyans that we would like to see them join the international community in calling for the government of Sudan to cooperate fully with the ICC," she said.
"This is the first time as a free government they have had to encounter these issues," she said, referring to the National Transitional Council (NTC) that replaced the regime of Moamer Gathafi who was ousted in August and later killed.
There will be "continued discussions" with Tripoli about how to deal with Sudan and Bashir, she said.
Gathafi, who was also wanted by the ICC for suppressing the revolt against him, poured arms across the border into Darfur and long sought greater influence in Sudan's ravaged western region.
Bashir said in Tripoli on Saturday that Gathafi's ouster was the "best gift" given to Sudan by Libyans.
Richard Dicker, international justice director at Human Rights Watch, said Bashir's visit to Libya "sends a disturbing signal about NTC's commitment to human rights and the rule of law."
Dicker said the rule of law should take precedence over political ties.
Libya is not legally bound to arrest Bashir as it is not a signatory to the ICC's founding Rome Statute.
Bashir has been wanted by the International Criminal Court since 2009 on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sudan's war-torn Darfur region.