Monday, March 09, 2009

Sudan Rejects ICC Arrest Warrant for President Omar al-Bashir

Sudan Rejects International Criminal Court(ICC) Arrest Warrant for President Omar al-Bashir

Tens of thousands rally to support President; AU, Arab League and others condemn ICC action

Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor
Pan-African News Wire
News Analysis

President Omar Hassan al-Bashir visited the North Darfur state capital of El-Fasher on March 8 in defiance of the International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant issued for his arrest just a few days before. The president addressed a rally of tens of thousands of supporters where he defied the ICC and its imperialist backers to attack the country and its leaders.

The ICC has been threatening to indict al-Bashir for several months over the government's handling of the conflict in the Darfur region in the west of Sudan, which is the African continent's largest geographic nation-state. The Darfur separatist movement consists of several groups including the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army(SLM/A).

In the aftermath of the conclusion of the civil war between the central government and the the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) in 2003, violence erupted in the western region of Darfur. Since 2003, the SLM and JEM have splintered into several other groups which has complicated the Sudanese government's efforts to reach a workable peace accord with the rebels.

On March 8, President al-Bashir drove from the El-Fasher airport in an open vehicle to the center of the capital. Thousands waved flags and photographs of the president while chanting slogans such as "Down, down Ocampo," in reference to the ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo. Other slogans included attacks on the role of the United States in the recent provocations against Sudan. "Down, down America," the rally participants chanted.

The rally in Darfur on March 8 came in the aftermath of a government decision to expel a number of non-governmental organizations from Sudan. The president accused the agencies, which are largely western-based, of interfering in the internal affairs of the country and carrying out actions in support of the ICC.

The Sudanese foreign ministry undersecretary, Mutrif Siddiq, said that the decision of the government was permanent.

"The decision of the authorities expelling foreign organisations irreversible," Siddiq told the official Sudanese News Agency (SUNA, March 8)

"Evidence has proved their cooperation with the so-called International Criminal Court (ICC)," Siddiq said. However, other organizations operating in Sudan will be permitted to stay on "as long as they are committed to the laws regulating humanitarian work," Siddiq continued.

In regard to the international aid agencies operating in Sudan, President al-Bashir stated in his speech in El-Fasher that "They have to respect the rules of the country. If anyone goes further than the rule of the country, we will kick them out directly."

President al-Bashir went on to say that "They speak as if they are the masters of the world, as if they determine the fate of all the peoples of the world. We reject and refuse, and we will continue to reject and refuse. We will never hand over any Sudanese citizen. We will not kneel to them." (Al Jazeera)

Implications for International Relations

The actions of the ICC is unprecedented because it represents the first time that this court has issued a warrant against a sitting head-of-state. Another legal strucutre, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) had issued an arrest warrant against Slobodan Milosevic, who died in the Hague amid legal proceedings against this leader of the former Yugoslav Socialist Federation.

However, the ICC has mainly targeted former African governmental and rebel leaders, bringing on charges that it is biased in its approach to the interpretation of international law.

The African Union, the organization that represents 53 independent states on the continent, objected to the ICC indictments against al-Bashir, which interestingly enough does not include charges of genocide, but alleges war crimes in Darfur. The AU said after a meeting on March 5 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, that it will attempt to halt the indictment because it jeopardizes the ongoing peace efforts between the central government in Sudan and the Darfur rebel groups.

Majok Guandong, the Sudanese ambassador to Kenya, expressed confidence that the African states would not implement the ICC warrant. "It will be a contradiction. How can you implement a decision of an organization that ignores your own opinion," he told Al Jazeera on March 6.

The Rome Statue that established the ICC has a provision that allows the Security Council to defer or suspend an investigation or an attempted prosecution. Moses Wetangual, the Kenyan foreign minister, has stated that the activities of the ICC are "very suspect."

"Look at the manner in which they have handled African issues. It's not just the ICC in the Hague, the application of so called universal jurisdiction in criminal matters has been laced with some racial undertones," he said.

AU chairperson, Libyan leader Muammer al Gaddafi, told the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon that the "ICC decision of indicting President al-Bashir angered African, Arab and Islamic nations." (Sudanese Media Center, March 8)

Gaddafi said that "the ICC decision is a direct violation of the sovereignty of small independent countries and interference in their domestic affairs." In addition to the AU chair, the Qatar Prime Minister, Sheikh Hamad Bin Jasim, told the UN Secretary General by telephone that "the indictment of al-Bashir does not serve the cause of peace and stability in Darfur." (Sudanese Media Center, March 8)

A similar tone was taken by the Gulf States Cooperation Council Chairman Abdel Rahman Bin Hamad Alattia who "warns that the ICC decision would sabotage peace efforts in Darfur which is now due to reach fruitful results." (Sudanese Media Center, March 8)

In regard to the Arab League, the Secretary General, Amr Moussa, met with President al-Bashir on March 7 in Khartoum to discuss the implications of the ICC arrest warrant. Moussa had said earlier that the ICC action had provoked the "anger of the Arab League." The Arab League Secretary General expressed the organization's support for the Sudanese leader.

Additional condemnation of the ICC decision came from the Arab Bar Union on March 8. A statement issued said that "the decision lacks legal evidence. The ICC decision is illegal based on the fact that Sudan is not party to the ICC and thereby the court has no jurisdiction over Sudan." (Sudanese Media Center, March 8)

According to the Arab Bar Union statement, "The ICC indicted Bashir while its prosecutor ignored atrocities committed by Israel on the Palestinian people. This is done despite the many calls for investigations into the crimes committed by Israel against Palestinians." The statement urges all African, Arab and Third World countries to quit the court because it has become a tool of the United States.

At the same time, the government of Sudan has rejected a United States administration proposal to resolve the crisis. The U.S. has told the Sudanese leader to not stand for re-elections and therefore activate article 16 of the ICC statute halting the indictment.

The Sudan government has rejected this proposal as a blatant interference in the internal affairs of the country. The U.S. is not a party to the ICC either, and consequently has no right to suggest how the Sudanese government handles the current situation.

Who is Behind the Darfur Rebel Movement?

Support for the Darfur separatists groups has been advanced by elements within the United States. The New York Times has ran numerous articles and editorials that seek to build public support for direct United States intervention in Sudan.

Many of the organizations that have played a leading role in the so-called "Save Darfur" campaign have been conservatives and liberals who also support the State of Israel in its continued occupation of Palestine.

Over the last two years, a well-financed campaign has been waged to build anti-Sudanese sentiment in the United States. A documentary film entitled "The Devil Came on Horseback" features a U.S. military officer who went to Darfur ostensibly as a monitor with the African Union peacekeeping force. The film shows atrocities committed in Darfur and appeals for military involvement by the West in Sudan.

In a February 17 article published in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, it was reported that a leader of the Darfur rebel movement visited the country for high level meetings with officials in the government. This article illustrates the base of support that exists in Europe for the Darfur campaign. When in Israel the Darfur leader met with a ranking Israeli official.

The Haaretz article states in part that "Abdel Wahid al-Nur is the head of the Sudan Liberation Movement. While in Israel, he met with the senior official and discussed with him the ongoing conflict in Sudan."

According to the article "Al-Nur came to Israel earlier this month at his own initiative, to attend the annual Herzliya Conference. He came with a group of European Jews, most of them French, who have been active on behalf of the Darfur refugees."

Haaretz continues by revealing that "At the conference, he was introduced to the senior official, and the two arranged a meeting, which took place a few days later. The Defense Ministry responded 'In the interests of national security, various and sundry meetings are held. We are not in the habit of giving responses after each of these meetings."

This article goes on to point out that "Al-Nur fled to France in 2007 and has not been back to Sudan since then. He has won support from international human rights organizations and is considered very close to French Jewish philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy.

"In the past, he has spoken in favor of establishing diplomatic ties between Sudan and Israel, and a year ago, he even announced that his movement was opening an office in Tel Aviv, staffed by Sudanese refugees who found asylum in Israel after fleeing massacres committed by Bashir's forces in Darfur."

The Need for International Solidarity With Sudan

Inside the United States, anti-war and anti-imperialist forces should speak out forefully against the indictment of the leader of Sudan. The ICC and its imperialist backers have no moral, legal or political right to call for the arrest and prosecution of a sitting head-of-state on the African continent.

The countless war crimes committed over the last seven years in Afghanistan, Iraq and Haiti, by the United States and its allies, has not resulted in any investigation, let alone indictments, from the ICC or other so-called international courts based in the Hague.

Consequently, it is quite obvious that the attacks on the Sudanese state is politically motivated. Sudan is an oil-rich country which has effectively banned the United States and British oil corporations from exploiting their natural resources. 80% of the oil concessions in the country are carried out in cooperation with the People's Republic of China.

The internal problems within Sudan can only be resolved among the people themselves in conjunction with the African Union and the Arab League. In fact the ongoing peace process in Darfur may be negatively impacted by these latest provocations by the ICC and its allies around the world.

Since the U.S. intervention into Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti as well as Somalia, millions of people have been killed and wounded. Millions more have been displaced internally and as refugees. Therefore, any U.S. or British miliary intervention in Sudan can only create conditions that would be disastrous to the people of this region.

The role of progressive forces in the U.S. should be focused exclusively on the transformation of the state from one based on oppression and exploitation to a government that supports the interests of the workers and the oppressed both domestically and internationally.
Abayomi Azikiwe is the editor of the Pan-African News Wire and has been following the situation in Sudan for many years.

No comments: