23/03/09 (B491) Shabelle / Erythrée : bravant le mandat d’arrêt international qui le concerne, le Président soudanais se rend en visite en Erythrée sur invitation d’Afwerki. // Sudan’s president traveled to Eritrea on Monday in his first trip abroad since an international court issued an arrest warrant against him on charges of war crimes in Darfur. (En Anglais – Info lecteur)

Eritrean television showed live coverage of President Omar al-Bashir arriving at the Asmara airport to be greeted by his counterpart President Isaias Afwerki as well as drummers and dancers.

The semiofficial Sudanese Media Center confirmed that the president had traveled to Eritrea in response to an invitation from Afwerki.

On March 4, the Hague-based International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for al-Bashir on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, a vast arid region in Sudan’s west where a civil war has claimed up to 300,000 lives and displaced 2.7 million people.

Under the charter of the ICC, member states are bound to arrest those indicted when they enter their territory. Eritrea is not a signatory, however, and has said it does not support the indictment.

The tiny Horn of Africa nation has itself come under severe criticism from the U.S. State Department and international human rights groups for its appalling human rights record. The U.S. government has previously debated designating Eritrea a state sponsor of terror because of its support for hardline Islamist insurgents in Somalia.

Al-Bashir is also scheduled to attend the Arab League summit at the end of the month in Qatar, but there have been public calls in Sudan for him to stay home for fears he might be arrested.

Only a few Arab countries are signatories to the ICC and bound by its rules. The Arab League has publicly stated that al-Bashir would be welcome at the March 27 summit.

Arab League chief Amr Moussa said last week that the 22-nation group would not act on the arrest warrant.

Al-Bashir caused an international outcry by expelling 13 international aid organizations from Darfur after the warrant was issued. He accused the groups of spying for the tribunal.

He has said he was ready to expel more organizations and even ambassadors if they overstepped their mandate.

Humanitarian agencies say millions are at risk in the devastated Darfur region if international aid activities are not resumed