Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir attends the African Union Summit on health focusing on HIV and Aids, TB and malaria in Abuja on July 15, 2013. President Bashir has left Nigeria after demands for his arrest on war crimes charges, an embassy spokesman said July 16, 2013.
Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir has left Nigeria with the International Criminal Court demanding his arrest, but Sudanese officials denied Tuesday the departure was due to the warrants against him.
Controversy had swirled over Bashir's visit, and the ICC issued a statement on Tuesday confirming it had requested that Nigeria arrest him on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
Bashir left on Monday, a Sudanese embassy spokesman said, though the African Union health summit he was attending in the Nigerian capital Abuja was not due to end until Tuesday.
The spokesman, Mohammed Moiz, told DRIVE HOT Bashir had returned to Khartoum for another engagement, but gave no further details. He had arrived on Sunday.
Sudan's ambassador to the African Union also said Bashir's departure was not due to calls for his arrest, adding he would "never flee."
"He's the bravest," Abdelrahman Sirelkhatim Mohamed told DRIVE HOT at the summit venue. "If he's afraid of arrest, he would not have come here."
The Hague-based ICC in 2009 and 2010 issued two warrants against Bashir for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide over the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region.
The ICC said its pre-trial chamber on Monday "requested the Federal Republic of Nigeria to immediately arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and surrender him to the ICC".
It added that Nigeria, as a member of the court, had an obligation to arrest wanted suspects.
Should Nigeria fail to comply "the court may make a finding and refer the matter to its Assembly of States Parties or the (UN) Security Council," the judges warned.
Nigeria's presidency had defended welcoming Bashir to the country for the summit on Monday and Tuesday despite the charges against him, saying it cannot interfere in AU affairs.
Some African Union members and officials have criticised the Bashir indictments, and the body has passed a resolution calling on members not to cooperate with the warrants.
Rights activists harshly criticised Bashir's visit and said they were planning to go to court to try to force Nigeria to arrest him.
Britain's minister for Africa, Mark Simmonds, also said Nigeria's decision to host Bashir "undermines the work of the ICC and sends the victims a dismaying message that the accountability they are waiting for will be delayed further."
Bashir has previously visited ICC member states, including Chad, Djibouti and Kenya, but countries like South Africa and Botswana have ensured he stay away.
Human Rights Watch has said the AU resolution to ignore the warrants has "no bearing on Nigeria's obligations as an ICC member".
Hosting Bashir is an "affront to victims" of the Darfur conflict, said Elise Keppler of Human Rights Watch.