The International Criminal Court (ICC) wants Malawi to explain why it failed to arrest Sudanese president and genocide suspect Omar al-Bashir during a recent visit, warning it could refer the matter to the United Nations Security Council.
Bashir is wanted by the ICC on charges of orchestrating genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region for the deaths of as many as 300,000 people since 2003.
He visited Malawi earlier last week for a regional trade summit.
The warning comes a day after a US republican congressman petitioned President Obama to remove the southern African nation from the Millennium Challenge Corporation programmes for hosting al-Bashir last week.
The MCA is already withholding a US$350 million energy grant because of human rights and governance concerns.
Judges at the Hague-based war crimes court issued a decision on Wednesday requesting Malawi submits before November 11 “any observations” over its alleged failure to comply with the arrest warrant issued against Bashir.
Malawi’s deputy foreign minister Kondwani Nankhumwa told Reuters last week that the country would not arrest Bashir, citing the “brotherly coexistence” between member states of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, to which it and Sudan belong.
As an ICC member state, Malawi is obligated to co-operate with the court and its arrest warrants.
The court said it sent a note on October 13 to the Malawi embassy in Brussels reminding Malawi of its obligation to arrest Bashir. Malawi has not yet replied, the ICC said.
ICC judges warned that the court, which has also issued an arrest warrant against Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, may in future refer the matter to the U.N. Security Council.
The ICC, the world’s first permanent war crimes court, has no police force of its own and is reliant upon state co-operation to have its arrests suspected.
The court has previously urged the Security Council to take measures against Kenya, Chad and Djibouti for failing to arrest Bashir during state visits. All three are ICC member states.
No Security Council action has been taken, however.