, KHARTOUM, October 27 – Sudan’s President Omar al-Beshir will stay away from a conference in Nigeria where African Union leaders will discuss a report on the war-torn western province of Darfur, officials said on Monday.
Beshir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for trial on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, and rights groups had urged the Nigerian government to arrest him if he turned up for Thursday’s meeting.
Around 15 heads of African states are expected to meet in Abuja to examine a study of the Darfur crisis drawn up by a high-level AU panel chaired by South Africa’s former president Thabo Mbeki.
A Nigerian government source told AFP that Beshir had been invited even though Nigeria has signed up to the law establishing the ICC and would therefore have a duty to arrest the Sudanese president.
Sudan’s representative at the meeting will be influential Second Vice-President Ali Osman Taha, official SUNA news agency reported, adding that Taha will arrive in Nigeria on Tuesday.
According to press reports, the AU panel will propose a "hybrid criminal court" of Sudanese and foreign judges to try people accused of offences in Darfur.
The United Nations says up to 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million fled their homes since ethnic minority rebels in the western region of Darfur first rose up against the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum in February 2003.
The Sudanese government says 10,000 people have been killed.