Monday, July 14, 2008

Sudan News Bulletin: People Denounce False Charges From International Criminal Court

Monday, July 14, 2008
16:03 Mecca time, 13:03 GMT

Sudan leader accused of war crimes

Protesters in Sudan dismissed the ICC move as "a joke"

The prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC) has called for the arrest of Omar al-Bashir, Sudan's president, for alleged war crimes in Darfur.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo said in a statement on Monday that al-Bashir had "masterminded and implemented" a campaign to wipe out three ethnic groups in Sudan.

Moreno-Ocampo's call for an arrest warrant to be issued against al-Bashir is the first instance where the arrest of a serving head of a state has been requested at the ICC.

The prosecutor "has concluded there are reasonable grounds to believe that (al-Bashir) bears criminal responsibility in relation to 10 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes," the statement said.

Judges to rule

The ICC is an independent permanent court that tries persons accused of the most serious crimes on international concern.

ICC judges will now examine whether if there were reasonable grounds to suggest that a crime within the court's jurisdiction had been committed.

The judges will then decide if they should issue an arrest warrant, a process that could take several months.

Moreno-Ocampo's accusation against al-Bashir comes amid concerns that tensions in Darfur could reach boiling point and lead to the expulsion of aid workers and peacekeepers in Sudan's western region.

Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary-general, has said that he is "very worried" by what could happen in Darfur should al-Bashir be formally indicted.

"It would have very serious consequences for peacekeeping operations including the political process," he said in a interview published in Le Figaro newspaper on Monday.

"I'm very worried, but nobody can evade justice," he said.

Khartoum does not recognise the ICC and has already refused to surrender two other war crimes suspects.

"If there is a decision about Presidents [al-Bashir], it may destroy the peace process," Al-Samani al-Wasila, state minister for foreign affairs, said last week.

Arab concern

Arab and African leaders have also expressed concern over any attempt to apprehend al-Bashir for any alleged involvement in war crimes.

The African Union's Peace and Security Council "expressed its strong conviction that the search for justice should be pursued in a way that does not impede or jeopardise efforts aimed at promoting lasting peace."

The Arab League said it will hold a crisis meeting on Sudan and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference has warned of "grave ramifications".

China's UN ambassador said that plans to issue a warrant for al-Bashir would put peace prospects "in jeopardy".

There are fears that arresting al-Bashir could strengthen the hand of fighters based in Darfur who attacked the capital in May.

The UN says up to 300,000 people have died since the Darfur conflict broke out in February 2003. The Sudanese government puts the death toll at 10,000.

Source: Agencies

Thousands rally in Sudan against UN court move

KHARTOUM, July 13 (Reuters) - Thousands of protesters chanting "down, down USA!" rallied in Khartoum on Sunday after reports that the International Criminal Court (ICC) may seek the arrest of Sudan's president for alleged war crimes.

A senior European diplomat said on Friday the court's prosecutor was likely to seek the arrest of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir in a case he will open on Monday about war crimes the ICC say were committed in Sudan's Darfur region.

"With our souls, with our blood we die for Bashir," the protesters chanted as they marched through the streets of Khartoum towards the offices of the United Nations.

The state-sponsored protest brought traffic to a standstill in the capital. Hundreds of people also gathered near the cabinet office where the government was holding an emergency meeting to discuss the issue.

"The ICC does just what the European Union, the United States of America and Israel tell it to do," the protesters said in a statement to be delivered to the U.N. offices.

Sudan has said an ICC move against its top officials could undermine attempt to end the conflict in Darfur. Two senior government officials told Reuters Sudan would probably seek Chinese, Russian and African support at the United Nations to help block a warrant for Bashir.

China is Sudan's largest weapons supplier and dominates Sudan's budding oil industry, which produces more than 500,000 barrels per day.

The U.N. Security Council can pass a resolution suspending an ICC warrant or investigation for 12 months, which can be extended further. However, observers say once Bashir is named, the damage will be done and a suspension will do little to improve Sudan's relations with the West.

The issue could also pit the demands of the U.N.-backed ICC against U.N. interests in deploying a peace force in Darfur -- scene of the world's biggest humanitarian operation -- and aid officials fear a potential backlash.

International experts say at least 200,000 people have died in Darfur and 2.5 million have been displaced since rebel groups took up arms against the government in 2003, accusing it of neglect. Khartoum says 10,000 people have been killed.

African Union warns ICC over Sudan prosecutions

ADDIS ABABA (AFP) - The African Union said Saturday that plans by the International Criminal Court to prosecute Sudanese government officials for alleged warcrimes could jeopardize peace efforts in Darfur.

In a statement released after a meeting in the Ethiopian capital, the body's Peace and Security Council "expressed its strong conviction that the search for justice should be pursued in a way that does not impede or jeopardize efforts aimed at promoting lasting peace..."

The statement follows reports that prosecutors of the international court may seek the arrest of President Omar al-Beshir for warcrimes committed by his forces in the western province of Darfur.

The Council said it had been briefed on the ICC's plans on Friday by the court's deputy prosecutor, and "reiterated the AU's concern with the misuse of indictments against African leaders."

It said the UN Security Council itself, in a March 2005 resolution, had "emphasized the need to promote healing and reconciliation" in the region.

ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo announced on Thursday that he would unveil a new case on Darfur and name suspects next Monday.

US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack on Friday confirmed newspaper reports that ICC prosecutors would seek an arrest warrant for Beshir.

It would mark the first-ever bid by the ICC, based in The Hague, to charge a sitting head of state.

Arab League warns against interference in Sudan's affairs

CAIRO (DPA) - The Arab League warned Saturday against the "politicizing" of the International Criminal Court (ICC) after Khartoum called for an emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers to discuss reports that the court prosecutor may seek a warrant for the arrest of the Sudanese president.

The Arab League's spokesman, Hesham Yussif, told reporters that that the league's Secretary-General Amr Mussa was in consultation with Arab foreign ministers and their African counterparts over the issue.

The Cairo-based body will decide the date of the meeting and action to be taken based on the consultations and the outcome of the ICC meeting on Monday, Yussif said.

The ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo is expected to open a new war crimes case on Darfur on Monday.

An ICC prosecution statement said Thursday that Ocampo was due to put forward to judges evidence on crimes committed in Darfur in the past five years and would seek to make charges against individuals.

No further details were revealed but United Nations officials were quoted by The Washington Post as saying Sudanese President Omar Bashir would be charged with genocide and crimes against humanity.

Arab countries are against the politicizing of the ICC and interference in Sudan's affairs, Yussif said.

Sudan has formally asked the Arab League to hold an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis. Khartoum's request was seconded by Syria, according to the league spokesman.

Last year, ICC judges issued arrest warrants for two Sudanese, the minister Ahmed Harun and militia commander Ali Kushayb, but the Sudanese government said it would not hand them over.

The crisis in Sudan's western Darfur province erupted when non- Arab rebels staged an uprising in 2003 against the predominantly Arab central government and Khartoum-backed nomadic militias.

Some 200,000 people have died, according to international estimates, and about 2.5 million have been displaced since 2003.

China plays 'most positive role' in Sudan peace process

XINHUA (Khartoum) -- The positive impact China has made on the Sudan peace process has been larger than that of any other country despite accusations from the West that it has not done much to stem conflict in the African country, a senior Sudanese official said Wednesday.

"In my opinion, China has played the most positive role (in Sudan) among countries outside the region," visiting Advisor of the President of Sudan, Mustafa Ismail, told reporters at a press conference in Beijing.

In sharp contrast, some Western countries have been playing up the Darfur issue as a conflict between the Arab and the African groups, to impose pressure on the Sudanese government for their own interests, Ismail said.

To that effect, a number of media outlets in the West have distorted the role of China in the Darfur issue, while some politicians have threatened to boycott the Beijing Olympics.

"We should know their tactics," Ismail said.

China's achievement in the Sudan peace process stems largely from its pure and transparent motive, Ismail said.

"China does not have an ulterior motive for being involved in the peace process. It is doing so for peace itself, which has won great trust both from our government and from the Sudan People's Liberation Movement," he said, referring to the major party in the south that signed a comprehensive peace agreement with the government in 2005.

China's humanitarian aid to Sudan, exceeding 100 million yuan ($15 million), as well as a sympathetic understanding of African problems, have added to the country's influence in the region, Ismail said.

The presidential advisor also expressed his gratitude to Chinese peacekeeping forces in Darfur, which is "doing a great job" by providing technology and experience to the United Nations-African Union (UN-AU) mission, on top of delivering humanitarian aid.

"You really should see the difference they are making," Ismail said.

Darfur is now experiencing peace, while political negotiations will resume in weeks when the new envoy designated by the UN and AU is familiar with the region, he said. Many armed factions in the area are also negotiating with the government for peace, he added.

"That will greatly influence the Darfur peace process," Ismail said.

"We believe the Darfur issue has entered the road to settlement."

Ismail, who is also a leading member of the National Congress Party, Sudan's ruling party, is on a five-day, inter-party visit to Beijing at the invitation of the Communist Party of China. He will leave China on Saturday.

Sudanese protest war crimes case against President at rally in capital

By Lydia Polgreen
Monday, July 14, 2008

DAKAR, Senegal--Thousands of people took to the streets of Sudan's tense capital on Sunday in a mass protest against the expected request by the International Criminal Court to arrest President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on war crimes charges.

Students and members of the ruling National Congress Party were bused to the center of the capital, Khartoum, where they waved banners denouncing the international court and the United Nations.

Sudanese officials said cabinet ministers held an emergency meeting to discuss how to respond to the request, expected on Monday, for the arrest of Bashir, who has ruled Sudan since taking power in a military coup nearly 20 years ago.

Sudan's state-run television station broadcast a statement from the National Congress Party saying that the court's actions would cause "more violence and blood" in Darfur, The Associated Press reported.

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, plans to ask that an arrest warrant be issued for Bashir, according to United Nations officials who have been briefed on his plans.

There is rising alarm in diplomatic circles, though, that charges against Bashir could jeopardize the vast aid and peacekeeping efforts in Darfur and undermine attempts to find a political settlement to end the crisis.

After being briefed on the prosecutor's case on Friday, the African Union's Peace and Security Council issued a statement expressing its "strong conviction that the search for justice should be pursued in a way that does not impede or jeopardize efforts aimed at promoting lasting peace," and "reiterated the AU's concern with the misuse of indictments against African leaders."

Andrew Natsios, the former United States envoy to Sudan, bluntly condemned the prosecutor's plans on the Web log Making Sense of Darfur, which is published by the Social Science Research Council.

"Without a political settlement, Sudan may go the way of Somalia, pre-genocide Rwanda or the Democratic Republic of the Congo: a real potential for widespread atrocities and bloodshed as those in power seek to keep it at any cost because of the alternatives," he wrote. "This indictment may well shut off the last remaining hope for a peaceful settlement for the country."

Khartoum was relatively calm on Sunday despite the protests, which were tightly scripted and not violent. Embassies and aid organizations urged their workers to stock up on food and water, and some evacuated workers from Darfur.

United Nations officials struggled to find ways to protect the roughly 9,000 peacekeeping troops in the Darfur region. Originally sent to protect civilians from the cataclysmic violence, 300,000 people have died, according to the United Nations, and 2.5 million have fled their homes the peacekeepers have found themselves increasingly in the crosshairs of the rising chaos in the region.

"People are afraid," a senior peacekeeping official in Darfur said in a telephone interview. "Anything can happen."

Seven people were killed Tuesday in a brazen attack on a convoy of peacekeepers returning from a patrol to investigate reports of atrocities committed by a government-allied rebel group in Darfur. The attack was unusual in its coordination and sophistication, according to peacekeeping officials, involving heavy weapons and tactics that require serious military training. That has led some officials to suspect that Sudanese government-trained militias were behind the ambush.

Ali al-Sadig, a government spokesman, said Sudan's government condemned the attack, adding that evidence investigators had gathered pointed to one of the rebel factions in Darfur.

The peacekeeping force in Darfur, a joint operation of the United Nations and the African Union, could be a prime target of violence and government anger after the announcement by Moreno-Ocampo, the prosecutor. Already strained by the deteriorating security in Darfur, the force could collapse, United Nations officials said.

"We are a consent-based organization, and if consent is withdrawn, you are looking at a radically different and terrifying situation for the people on the ground," said one official at the Department of Peacekeeping Operations in New York, speaking anonymously because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

Anti-genocide and human rights advocates have cheered the decision to request charges against Bashir, calling it a victory in the battle against impunity. They point out that similar objections, that war crimes charges would hinder peace, were raised in other such cases, including when international courts charged leaders with committing war crimes in Sierra Leone and the former Yugoslavia.

Hussein Abu Shartai, a spokesman for displaced Darfurians living in Kalma, one of the region's largest and most volatile camps, praised the prosecutor, calling the request for an arrest warrant "the moment we have all been waiting for."

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