Home | News    Thursday 4 December 2008

ICC prosecutor says decision on Sudan leader warrant coming ‘shortly’

December 3, 2008 (UNITED NATIONS) — The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Luis Moreno-Ocampo warned the UN Security Council (UNSC) today that they must be prepared for an arrest warrant that may be issued by the judges for Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir.

Luis Moreno Ocampo, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, answers questions during a news conference on July 17, 2008 at the United Nations in New York (AFP)

“The Judges will rule shortly on the prosecution request for an arrest warrant” Ocampo told the UNSC in his semi-annual report.

It has been almost two months since the ICC judges began consideration of the prosecutor’s application for an arrest warrant against Al-Bashir. The counts being considered include genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Two other arrest warrants remain pending in the Darfur case for Ahmed Haroun, state minister for humanitarian affairs and Ali Mohamed Ali Abdel-Rahman, also know as Ali Kushayb. Sudan has so far rejected handing over the two suspects.

The ICC prosecutor urged the council to consider sanctions against individuals whose arrest is sought by the court and those who assist them.

“No political support, no financial aid should be provided to those individuals subject of an arrest warrant or those protecting them. For those assisting the indictees, individual travel bans and freezing of assets should be considered as appropriate” he said.

Ocampo further reiterated his accusations that Al-Bashir is orchestrating a mass campaign of genocide against African tribes of Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa in Darfur.

“The evidence shows that in March 2003 President al-Bashir ordered, the attacks against the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa, stating, ’I want no prisoners or wounded, only scorched earth.’” The ICC prosecutor said.

“He [Al-Bashir] triggered brutal attacks in the villages and in the camps for displaced persons. At least 35,000 persons have been killed and around 30,000 suffered a slow death. Thousands of women and girls are the victims of rapes 2.5 million people in the camps today are subjected to conditions calculated to bring about their physical destruction” he added.

The ICC prosecutor further said that the UNSC to take a firm stand in support of a possible arrest of Sudan president.

“The international community could not be part of such a cover-up. Faced with genocide and crimes against humanity, we know that inaction and business as usual are part of the crimes”, Ocampo warned.

Khartoum has been lobbying the UNSC in its bid to suspend the indictment of Al-Bashir through a resolution invoking Article 16 of the ICC Statute.

But today few voices were heard at the UNSC explicitly calling for a suspension even among Sudan’s strongest allies including Russia and China.

The Chinese envoy at the briefing Zhang Yesui said that “many States were concerned that that move would negatively impact the prospects for peace in the Sudan, particularly since the Sudanese Government was making efforts to end impunity through national proceedings”.

His Russian counterpart Vitaly Churkin echoed the remarks and stressed that “it would make sense to focus on restoring dialogue and trust among involved parties”.

Libya criticized the ICC report saying that the priority should be for the establishment of peace then justice.

“The arrest warrant for Mr. Al Bashir, which had come at an extremely sensitive time when the deployment of hybrid forces had been activated and when further international efforts were under way to advance the political process” Libya’s UN envoy, Giadalla Ettalhi said.

South Africa’s delegation said that the UNSC members “needed to make decisions” on invoking Article 16.

“The Rome Statute provided for the article to be used, and the Council would have to balance two needs: maintenance of peace and security, on the one hand, and fighting impunity, on the other” South Africa’s ambassador Dumisani Kumalo said.

“We know there could be reprisals, the situation could get even worse” countered Costa Rica’s Ambassador Jorge Urbina. “Night is never so dark as before the dawn. We can’t have this arm wrestle between the council and the court and not allow responsibility to be taken for one’s acts”.

Belgian Ambassador Jan Grauls said the council cannot allow itself to be “manipulated by blackmail” by caving to al-Bashir’s threats of more violence.

Following the ICC move some Sudanese officials hinted that they may ask UN missions in the South and Darfur to leave if Al-Bashir is charged by the ICC.

Ocampo said today that Al-Bashir has been “inciting violence” over the court’s charges by threatening civilians and peacekeepers in the joint U.N.-African Union force.

“The [prosecutor] Office is monitoring statements potentially inciting to violence such as that of Sudanese Presidential Adviser Bona Malwal on 25 July, in reference to peacekeeping forces, that ‘We are telling the world that with the indictment of our president Al-Bashir we can’t be responsible for the well?being of foreign forces in Darfur’”.

The prosecutor also revealed that Khartoum has been working to identify witnesses worldwide to prevent them from coming forward and testify but provided no details.

“This is not how evidence is; this is how crimes are covered up” Ocampo said.

Sudan’s U.N. ambassador, Abdel-Mahmoud Abdel-Haleem, accused Moreno-Ocampo of “political blackmail”.

“He’s increasingly transforming the ICC into a tool that has nothing to do with justice” Abdel-Haleem told Reuters, adding that most countries in the world want the Security Council to suspend the investigation against Bashir.

If Al-Bashir is charged by the Judges he will be the first sitting head of state to face an arrest warrant.