Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Sudan News Bulletin: ICC Issues Warrant For President Omar Hassan al-Bashir

ICC issues war crimes warrant for Sudan's Beshir

THE HAGUE (AFP) - - The International Criminal Court sought the arrest Wednesday of Sudan's President Omar al-Beshir for war crimes in Darfur, issuing the first ever warrant against a sitting head of state.

"Today, pre-trial chamber one of the International Criminal Court ... issued a warrant for the president of Sudan for war crimes and crimes against humanity," court spokeswoman Laurence Blairon said.

The 65-year-old Beshir will face five counts of crimes against humanity and two of war crimes. However Beshir will not face charges of genocide as requested by the ICC's chief prosecutor, the spokeswoman added.

Speaking at a press conference, Blairon said Beshir bore responsibility for "exterminating, raping and forcibly transfferring a large numbers of civilians" from the western Sudanese region where a six-year conflict has cost several hundred thousand lives.

She said Beshir and other high level Sudanese political and military leaders had orchestrated and coordinated the attacks.

Although there was no immediate response from Khartoum, Beshir said on Tuesday that he would regard any warrant as worthless.

"Any decision by the International Criminal Court has no value for us. It will not be worth the ink it is written on," he said on Tuesday.

Blairon said that if Sudan failed to comply with the warrant it could be referred to the UN Security Council.

The Arab League has said it feared "dangerous consequences" if a warrant is issued while the African Union has also called on the UN Security Council to suspend the court's proceedings.

The announcement came the day after the chief ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, who asked the court to issue an arrest warrant for Beshir last year, said he had strong evidence against the leader of Africa's biggest country and had a list of more than 30 witnesses.

The ICC has no powers of enforcing its own warrants, but suspects can be arrested on the territory of states that have signed up to the court's founding Rome Statute.

The United Nations says up to 300,000 people have died since conflict broke out in Sudan's western Darfur region in 2003, when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated regime for a greater share of resources and power.

A ceasefire has been agreed between the government and opposition groups but deadly clashes go on in the region.

Moreno-Ocampo accuses Beshir of personally instructing his forces to annihilate three ethnic groups -- the Fur, the Masalit and the Zaghawa.

The prosecutor says 2.7 million people have been uprooted from their homes, of whom 100,000 died of causes related to their displacement, such as starvation.

In May 2007, the ICC issued arrest warrants for crimes in Darfur against Sudanese government minister Ahmad Harun and Janjaweed militia leader Ali Kushayb, which Khartoum, who rejects ICC jurisdiction, has failed to honour.

Ahead of the announcement, the Sudanese army broadcast a warning on state radio against anyone trying to make political capital out of any move by the court to pursue proceedings against the regime.

Security was beefed up outside embassies, with large protests expected if the ICC issues a warrant on any of the multiple charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

The medical aid organisation Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said it was pulling its expatriate staff out of Darfur after the Sudanese government ordered them to leave.

Sudan’s Bashir formally charged by ICC on Darfur war crimes but not genocide

Wednesday 4 March 2009.
By Wasil Ali

March 4, 2009 (WASHINGTON) — The International Criminal Court (ICC) announced that it sjudges approved charges made by its prosecutor against Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir.

The ICC announced that the arrest warrant was issued for seven counts out of for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. However the gencoide charges were dropped.

On July 14th 2008 the ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo filed 10 charges: three counts of genocide, five of crimes against humanity and two of murder and accused Al-Bashir of masterminding a campaign to get rid of the African tribes in Darfur; Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa.

The spokeswoman for the court in The Hague, Laurence Blairon, said the court would transmit as soon as possible to the government of Sudan a request for his arrest and surrender.

US based Human Rights Watch (HRW) hailed the decision saying it means that "even those at the top may be held to account for mass murder, rape and torture".

“With this arrest warrant, the International Criminal Court has made Omar al-Bashir a wanted man,” said Richard Dicker, director of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch. “Not even presidents are guaranteed a free pass for horrific crimes. By ruling there is a case for President al-Bashir to answer for the horrors of Darfur, the warrant breaks through Khartoum’s repeated denials of his responsibility.”

Sudan: International Court Issues Arrest Warrant for Bashir

4 March 2009

The International Criminal Court issued a warrant Wednesday for the arrest of President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity arising out of the war in Darfur.

However, the court declined to include the charge of genocide in the warrant. It said the prosecution had failed to provide reasonable grounds for believing that that government of Sudan had the intent to destroy specific groups of people in Darfur.

Bashir becomes the first sitting head of state to be indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Announcing the decision in a news conference at The Hague, the court's Dutch headquarters, spokeswoman Laurence Blairon said the court had appealed for cooperation in executing the warrant from the government of Sudan, from all states which subscribed to the court, from members of the United Nations Security Council and from other states whose help may be necessary.

Sudan People's Liberation Movement (Juba)

Sudan: Statement by Salva Kiir on the ICC Announcement

4 March 2009

Dear Compatriots, Fellow Sudanese,

Tomorrow, the Pre-Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) will deliver its decision on the accusations against President Omer Hassan Ahmed Bashir. This is what the Court had announced earlier on. In tomorrow's expected announcement, the ICC may issue the warrant of arrest or it may throw out the case against the President.

Tomorrow's announcement may not mark the end of the ICC issue. This matter may hang on for sometime but it certainly will not mean the end of our country, the Sudan or government. We must move beyond tomorrow. And we will move beyond tomorrow. This episode should not be viewed as a crisis but as an opportunity to consolidate peace, justice and stability in our country.

In order to move beyond tomorrow, we have to continue doing those things that will maintain peace and stability in our country. We must continue to assure the security and the safety of every citizen and foreign resident in the Sudan. I trust that our armed forces and law enforcement agencies shall respect the basic rights of the people, maintain law and order and uphold and abide by the constitution.

We will continue to provide security and protection to foreigners living in our country or tourists visiting it. We must continue facilitating the peace keeping missions of the United Nations, the African Union and all humanitarian agencies. We will continue to carry out our daily work normally.

We must and will continue to treat ourselves and foreigers with that legendary hospitality and civility for which the Sudanese are renowned. We must continue to do those things that ought to be done in order to lift our country out of the current dire financial and economic straits. We must continue to play our role as a responsible member of the community of nations.

To my Comrades in the SPLM, I say the following,

During such difficult times, or situations of uncertainty, members of any political party look to the Party for direction and guidance. This is natural. It is therefore perfectly normal to expect your Party to provide such direction and clarity in the current circumstances.

In addressing the issue of ICC last July, I had appeared for calm and restraint. I do reiterate the same now. You will recall that all meetings of the SPLM Political Bureau held after July 2008 have kept the ICC issue on the agenda. The SPLM has maintained a consistent position since then. We have advised engagement with the ICC and cooperation with the international community so as to resolve the issue before it assumes massive proportions.

We advised engagement with ICC because this is a legal matter that we believe need to be addressed legally. In the spirit of Sudan's foreign policy enshirined in the CPA and the constitution, we strongly advised cooperation rather than confrontation with the international community in order to secure goodwill for political resolution of all the root causes of the problem that led to the accusations.

We believed then, as we do now, that this good-will is necessary and good for the Sudan. It is necessary in case of the Court decision that may affect the country negatively. This remains our position today and we will stand by it.

I do not know what the Court will announce tomorrow. But in the event of the court agreeing with the Chief Prosecutor, the SPLM will work with its partners in the NCP on how to politically and diplomatically handle the decision of the Court. The two Parties shall seriously and genuinely address the conflict in Darfur, the full implementation of the CPA, pursue national reconciliation and healing process.

We will work with other political parties, African Union and the international community, to achieve these objectives. We will do this because we believe it will serve the interest of peace and stability in the country. In taking this route, the SPLM is committed to justice without compromising peace and stability and the destiny of our nation.

Therefore, we appeal to the international community to continue maintaining peace and supporting post conflict reconstruction in Sudan shall not only hurt the Sudan itself but also have serious repercussions in the region. Morevoer the international community already has its hands full with respect to the security problems in the Horn of Africa and Great Lakes region for it to add.

Fellow Compatriots,

SPLM believes in the freedom of speech and of expression within the bounds of the law. This has been our position all along. Tomorrow, after annoucement of the decision of the ICC, some people may react by expressing themselves in various ways. Some of these expressions may include public demonstrations. It is the right of those who wish to demonstrate to do so, as long as they do it in a peaceful and lawful manner.

However, I do not believe that demonstrations in themselves are the most effective way of handling the current issue of the ICC indictment. Consequently, I advise SPLM members and other citizens to refrain from demonstrations that may heighten tensions, intimidate other citizens, residents, or frustrate in any manner ongoing diplomatic and political efforts to defuse the crisis.

To my brothers and sisters in the National Congress Party,

To have the head of your party accused of serious crimes is un-nerving to say the least. But Brother Bashir is not only the head of the National Congress Party, he is also President of the Sudan. As such, all Sudanese are hurt by the accusations against him and therefore wish to see a peaceful end to the crisis. This may happen tomorrow if the court dismisses the case or it may not happen tomorrow should the court decide there is a case to answer.

It is no secret that politicians and public figures are used to being cast in harst and adverse light. Yet being accused of committing genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity are not common accusations. These charges will profoundly affect any human being no matter whether they are well founded or not. It is therefore heartening that Brother Bashir has borne this burden with fortitude. As we await the ICC announcement tomorrow, I trust that brother Bashir will rise up to the challenge and react with statesmanship. I appeal to the rank and file of NCP and Sudanese of all walks of like to give him the necessary support during this difficult time.

Thank you all.

Warrant issued for Sudan's leader

The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Sudan's president on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

But the court in The Hague stopped short of accusing Omar al-Bashir of genocide. He denies the charges.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of the capital, Khartoum, after the announcement, amid fears of unrest.

The UN estimates about 300,000 people have died and millions been displaced in six years of conflict in Darfur.

Court spokeswoman Laurence Blairon said Mr Bashir was suspected of being criminally responsible for "intentionally directing attacks against an important part of the civilian population of Darfur, Sudan, murdering, exterminating, raping, torturing and forcibly transferring large numbers of civilians and pillaging their property".

She said the violence in Darfur was the result of a common plan organised at the highest level of the Sudanese government, but there was no evidence of genocide.

The court would transmit a request for Mr Bashir's arrest and surrender as soon as possible to the Sudanese government, she added.

It is the ICC's first warrant against a sitting head of state.

ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo made the request for the warrant in July 2008.


Reacting to the charges, an aide to Mr Bashir said the Hague judges were biased.

"This decision is exactly what we have been expecting from the court, which was created to target Sudan and to be part of the new mechanism of neo-colonialism," Mustafa Othman Ismail told Sudanese TV.

Speaking on Tuesday ahead of the announcement, Mr Bashir said the Hague tribunal could "eat" the arrest warrant.

He said it would "not be worth the ink it is written on" and then danced for thousands of cheering supporters who burned an effigy of the ICC chief prosecutor.

Sudan expert Alex de Waal told the BBC the indictment is "pretty toothless" as the ICC does not have a police force and the warrant will be delivered to Sudan's government, which is unlikely to execute it.

Heavy security is in place in Khartoum and large pro-Bashir demonstrations are expected.

But there is also a strong feeling in the city - albeit seldom openly expressed - in support of an indictment, says the BBC's Peter Martell in Khartoum.

The war crimes court has already issued two arrest warrants-in 2007 - for Sudanese Humanitarian Affairs Minister Ahmed Haroun and the Janjaweed militia leader Ali Abdul Rahman. Sudan has refused to hand them over.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2009/03/04 14:22:37 GMT

Profile: Sudan's Omar al-Bashir

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir's career has been defined by war. He came to power in a coup in 1989 and has ruled Africa's largest country with an iron fist ever since.

When he seized power, Sudan was divided by a bitter war between north and south, with which his government signed a deal to end in 2005.

But as that conflict was coming to an end, another one broke out in the western region of Darfur, where President Bashir is accused of organising war crimes and crimes against humanity.

"He's a man for whom dignity and pride are very important and he's a man who's quite hot-headed - prone to angry outbursts especially when he feels his pride has been wounded," Sudan analyst Alex de Waal told the BBC News website.

Shortly before taking to the helm, he was a commander in the army - responsible for leading operations in the south against the late rebel leader John Garang.

When he signed a peace deal with Garang and his Sudan People's Liberation Movement, ending a 21-year civil war to form a national unity government, he took pains to stress the deal had not been a defeat.

"We did not sign it after we had been broken. We signed it while we were at the peak of our victories," he said.

His goal has always been to keep a unified Sudan, and his biggest fear is that the south will vote to secede in 2011 - a referendum was part of the peace deal.

His attitude to Darfur, where a conflict has raged since 2003 when rebels took up arms at alleged government discrimination, shows a similar belligerence.

But he denies international accusations that he has backed Arab Janjaweed militias accused of war crimes against the region's black African communities.

For years, Mr Bashir resisted the deployment of UN peacekeepers to Darfur - today there are only 9,000 of a planned 26,000 force deployed - and any criticism from the West tends to make him and his allies dig in their heels.

"We are telling those people who are saying that they want to put pressure on the Khartoum government that we will remain firm and never bow to anyone except the Almighty God," he told cheering crowds in 2004.

Stick waving

It is at these rallies, often dressed in his military uniform, that Mr Bashir seems in his element - waving his walking stick in the air.

He is more shy when it comes to the media and rarely gives one-to-one interviews.

Correspondents say this may be because he is not that articulate, unlike his former enemy Mr Garang, who died not long after becoming national vice-president.

But this means, says Mr de Waal, that the president is often underestimated.

"He is smarter than he appears. He's somebody who apparently has a huge grasp of detail, but he's very conscious of the fact that he's not highly educated," Mr de Waal says.

He is said to enjoy a better relationship with Mr Garang's successor, Salva Kiir, precisely because the two men are career soldiers - ill at ease with clever, well-spoken politicians.

Born in 1944 into a farming family, Mr Bashir joined the army as a young man and rose through the ranks. He fought in the Egyptian army in the 1973 war against Israel.

As head of state, his game has largely remained soldiering- the political lead being taken by two other figures.

The first in the 1990s was Hassan al-Turabi, a prominent Sunni Muslim who advocates an Islamic state and ushered in a bill introducing Sharia to all provinces but the south.

After their fall-out in 2000, Mr Turabi told the BBC: "He's a military person who has been in power for a while and he wants to assert military power."

Then Osman Ali Taha, now first vice-president, who negotiated the north-south deal, came to the fore. But his influence has since waned and the president has taken centre stage.

"In the last two years Bashir has emerged as exercising more power himself. There's no one figure that overshadows him," says Mr de Waal.

His longevity in office, he adds, is probably down to that fact that powerful rivals in the ruling National Congress Party distrust each other more than they do Mr Bashir.

'Traditional conflict'

Little is known about the Sudanese leader's private life. He has no children and when in his fifties took a second wife.

He married the widow of Ibrahim Shams al-Din, considered a war hero in the north - as an example to others, he said.

The long civil war had seen many colleagues fall, and he implored others to marry again so war widows could be taken care of.

Mr Bashir has presided over a flourishing economy. When he became president, it was punishable by death to be found in possession of US dollars.

Now, there are pockets full of dollars as the oil flows, controls have been lifted and the telecommunications system revolutionised.

Such business acumen and forethought, however, have not been extended countrywide, nor has the oil wealth.

But Mr Bashir denies accusations that these issues may be the underlying cause of unrest in Darfur.

"In reality, the gist of the Darfur problem is just traditional conflict over resources, which has been coated with claims of marginalisation," he has said.

He was angered and humiliated in May 2008 when Darfur rebels nearly entered Khartoum, his fortress capital.

"One of the concerns since the attack is that because he's been made to look weak, he may feel the need to show how strong he is," Mr de Waal says.

Many fear the International Criminal Court's indictment against him in March 2009 on five counts of crimes against humanity and two of war crimes will provoke Mr Bashir into flexing his muscles.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2009/03/04 14:55:59 GMT

Q&A: International Criminal Court

The International Criminal Court in The Hague has been a controversial addition to the global justice system. The court has been ratified by more than 100 countries - but not by the US.

The BBC News website examines the main issues behind the creation of the court.

What is the court designed to do?

To prosecute and bring to justice those responsible for the worst crimes - genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes - committed anywhere in the world.

It is a court of last resort, intervening only when national authorities cannot or will not prosecute.

Aren't there already several international courts?

Yes, but they either do different jobs or have a limited remit.

The International Court of Justice (sometimes called the World Court) rules on disputes between governments. It cannot prosecute individuals.

The international criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda do try individuals for crimes against humanity, but only those crimes committed in those territories over a limited time.

Those tribunals will eventually be wound up. The new International Criminal Court however, is a permanent body.

Are there any time limits on what it covers?

The court has no retrospective jurisdiction - it can deal only with crimes committed after 1 July 2002 when the 1998 Rome Statute came into force.

Additionally, the court has automatic jurisdiction only for crimes committed on the territory of a state which has ratified the treaty; or by a citizen of such a state, or when the United Nations Security Council refers a case to it.

What kind of cases is the court considering?

The first person to face trial at the ICC is Thomas Lubanga, the leader of a militia group in the Democratic Republic of Congo who is accused of war crimes relating to the use of children in that country's civil conflict.

He was arrested in 2005 after nine Bangladeshi UN peacekeepers were killed in the Ituri area of north-eastern DR Congo.

Others wanted by the ICC include leaders of Uganda's rebel movement, the Lord's Resistance Army, which is active in northern Uganda, north-eastern DR Congo and South Sudan.

Its leader, Joseph Kony, is accused of abducting thousands of children and forcing them to kill their own parents. He remains at large and refuses to sign a peace deal until the ICC arrest warrant is revoked.

The ICC is also investigating events in the Darfur region of Sudan, where almost two million people have been displaced.

Working without the co-operation of the government in Khartoum, the ICC is looking into reports of rape, sexual violence and the intimidation of humanitarian personnel.

Two Sudanese officials have been indicted on war crimes charges.

ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has also asked judges to issue a warrant for President Omar al-Bashir, which has sparked the anger of Sudanese officials.

Mr Moreno-Ocampo is also investigating alleged war crimes committed by four rebel leaders.

How can the court secure the arrest and trial of suspects?

The ICC has no police force of its own to track down and arrest suspects.

Instead it must rely on national police services to make arrests and seek their transfer to The Hague.

Thomas Lubanga was handed over to the court by authorities in the Congolese capital, Kinshasa.

How does the system work?

The prosecutor begins an investigation if a case is referred either by the UN Security Council or by a ratifying state.

He or she can also take independent action, but prosecutions have to be approved by a panel of judges.

Both the prosecutor and the judges are elected by the states taking part in the court. Luis Moreno-Ocampo of Argentina is the first chief prosecutor of the court.

Each state has a right to nominate one candidate for election as a judge.

Currently Judge Philippe Kirsch (Canada) serves as president, Judge Akua Kuenyehia (Ghana) as first vice-president, and Judge Rene Blattmann (Bolivia) as second vice-president.

Who has agreed to co-operate with the court?

One hundred states have ratified the Rome Treaty so far - and have therefore bound themselves to co-operate - of the 139 that have signed and may ratify it in the future.

Only one Arab state has joined so far - Jordan.

Why isn't the United States involved?

During negotiations, the US argued that its soldiers might be the subject of politically motivated or frivolous prosecutions.

Various safeguards were introduced, and Bill Clinton did eventually sign the treaty in one of his last acts as president.

However, the Bush administration has been adamantly opposed to the court and to any dilution of US sovereignty in criminal justice.

The US threatened to pull its troops out of the UN force in Bosnia unless they were given immunity from prosecution by the ICC.

In a much-criticised decision, the UN Security Council voted on 12 July 2002 on a compromise that gave US troops a 12-month exemption from prosecution - renewed annually.

But the Security Council - prompted by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan - refused to renew the exemption in June 2004, two months after pictures of US troops abusing Iraqi prisoners shocked the world.

The court's operation is seen as weakened without US involvement.

However, Washington has not ruled out co-operation with the court in particular cases, such as on the Darfur issue.

The referral of the case to the ICC, the first by the Security Council, was made possible after the US backed away from using its veto.

Washington was given guarantees that its own citizens in Sudan would be exempt from prosecution.

Are there other dissenters?

Yes, a number of important countries seem determined not to submit to the jurisdiction of the ICC.

Some have not even signed the treaty, such as China, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, and Turkey.

Others have signed but remain dubious and have not ratified, for example, Egypt, Iran, Israel and Russia.

It is unlikely that alleged crimes against humanity in those states will be prosecuted.

How does it fit in with each nation's judicial system?

States that join the treaty may want to make sure that they themselves are able to prosecute all the crimes that it covers - otherwise the court may intervene.

Some governments have already introduced legislation to make changes to their own judicial systems.

Who is paying?

The states which take part. This will be according to the same rules that govern their contributions to the UN - roughly based on their national wealth.

The absence of the US and Japan in particular will make the funding of the court more expensive for others.

Germany, France and Britain will be the largest contributors, at least at first.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2009/01/26 09:44:38 GMT

1 comment:

Hannah said...

Though the move by ICC to issue an arrest warrant to Omar al-Bashir president of Sudan goes on to show the height of justice, it would ultimately lead to the suffering in the parts of the Sudanese and hamper the peace process in the nation. Does this mean we should turn a blind eye on crimes on humanity? Make your stance on the situation of arrest warrant for Omar al-Bashir at