Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has left Nigeria, where his presence at a one-day African Union HIV/AIDS summit defied International Criminal Court (ICC) calls for his arrest on charges of genocide and war crimes, officials said.
His press secretary and Nigerian hosts both denied reports in the local media that he had left early fearing arrest.
Monday’s summit lasted one day and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn was the only African leader who stayed on until Tuesday, an official at a breakfast for them at the presidency that morning said, Reuters reports.
“President Bashir returned normally to Khartoum after participating in the summit in Abuja to resume his work in Khartoum,” his press secretary Emad Said told Reuters.
Bashir, who is accused of masterminding genocide and other crimes during the conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region in which some 200,000 people were killed, arrived in Nigeria on Sunday, to the chagrin of human rights campaigners.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch and the British government both expressed dismay at the decision to let him in, and a local activist group filed a court petition demanding his arrest, in line with Nigeria’s obligations under the ICC treaty.
The ICC’s pre-trial chamber said on Tuesday it had asked Nigeria to arrest Bashir and hand him to the ICC the day before.
The African Union voted in 2009 not to cooperate with the ICC indictments against Bashir. Nigeria’s presidency says its decision to allow him in was in keeping with that decision.
African enthusiasm for the court has waned over the years, partly owing to a perception that prosecutors disproportionately target African leaders, a charge the ICC denies.