U.N.: Sudan cancels president's assembly appearance

Published: Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013 12:42 p.m. CDT

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Sudan has cancelled its president's appearance at the annual meeting of world leaders this week, a United Nations spokesman said Thursday.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir would have been the first head of state to address the General Assembly while facing international war crimes and genocide charges. He faces two International Criminal Court indictments for crimes linked to the conflict in the western Darfur region of Sudan, where an estimated 300,000 people have died since 2003.

Al-Bashir had been scheduled to speak Thursday at the U.N., but Martin Nesirky, spokesperson for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said in an email that Sudan had cancelled the appearance.

Calls and emails to the Sudanese mission to the U.N. were not immediately returned.

The U.S. State Department had no immediate comment. The U.S. government had made it clear it did not want al-Bashir to show up in New York, and the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Samantha Power, had said "such a trip would be deplorable, cynical and hugely inappropriate."

The status of al-Bashir's U.S. visa application was not clear. Under a U.S. treaty with the United Nations dating to 1947, Washington is obligated to issue the visa as the world body's host country. The United States has never banned a visiting head of state who wants to speak to the United Nations.

Power tweeted after Thursday's news: "Historic Charles Taylor judgment today: War crimes and crimes against humanity will not go unpunished. cc #OmarAlBashir." Taylor, the former Liberian president, was convicted Thursday on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. He was the first former head of state convicted by an international war crimes court since World War II.

A Human Rights Watch expert had warned that various civil rights and human rights groups could seek to charge al-Bashir with torture or genocide under U.S. domestic law if he arrived in New York. Human Rights lawyers have over the past 20 years uses the Alien Tort Act to file civil suits by Americans or foreigners against foreign nationals who come to the United States after committing human rights abuses abroad.

Sudan's Foreign Ministry has said the United States is "not qualified ... to offer sermons and advice" on international law and human rights.

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Associated Press writer Deb Riechmann in Washington contributed.

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