Tuesday, June 09, 2009

International Criminal Court Increases Pressure on Sudan

International Criminal Court Escalates Pressure Against Sudan

President travels to Zimbabwe for regional conference in defiance of warrants

by Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has called for the immediate arrest of Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Hague-based Court indicted Al-Bashir in March in connection with the government's efforts to halt rebel attacks in the western Darfur region of the central African state.

"The government of Sudan has the responsibility to arrest him (al-Bashir)", Moreno-Ocampo told the United National Security Council on June 5, citing legal obligations mandated by the UN Charter and resolutions.

In addition, the ICC prosecutor told the Security Council that the Sudanese government "has also the duty to arrest" Sudanese ex-minister Ahmad Harun and Civil Defense Forces leader Ali Kushayb who were also cited by Moreno-Ocampo for alleged war crimes in the Darfur region of the country.

Moreno-Ocampo then accused the Sudanese government of violating UN resolutions by appointing Haroun as governor of South Kordofan province. "We are at a crossroads. There's a chance to stop the violence. Crimes have to be stopped," the ICC prosecutor said.

In the aftermath of these statements by Moreno-Ocampo, the Sudanese Ambassador to the United Nations, Abdel-Haleem Abdel-Mahmood, confronted the ICC prosecutor outside the Security Council chambers resulting in a near-clash between the two men. Abdel-Mahmood accused the Moreno-Ocampo of being a "liar" whose actions are promoting the destruction of Sudan.

According to the Sudan Tribune the "official called on the United Nations Security Council to put an end to Ocampo's mandate saying that his government appointed a special prosecutor to look into crimes taking place in Darfur. He also described Ocampo as 'the man on his left' as a 'fugitve from Sudanese justice' and said that the ICC prosecutor is practicing 'criminal tourism' with his backers around the world." (Sudan Tribune, June 5)

The United Nations Security Council was not expected to take any action or issue a statement in response to the ICC report. Russia and China, two permanent members of the Security Council, have in the past blocked actions against Sudan.

Abdel-Mahmood reiterated the position of the Sudanese government that "We are not going to cooperate with this politically-motivated court (the ICC)". He went on to say that "The prosecutor has outlived his usefulness and has become a liability for his own promoters." (AFP, June 5)

Sudan Rejects Isolation

Despite these charges against the Sudanese leader, the government has remained defiant and is refusing to cooperate with the ICC. President Al-Bashir traveled to Zimbabwe on June 6 in order to participate in a Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) regional conference. He was welcomed by Zimbabwe Vice-President Joice Mujuru and President Robert Mugabe.

The Zimbabwe Minister of Justice Patrick Chinamasa said that the Sudanese leader was welcome to visit the country. "We are aware that the President of Sudan is under an ICC warrant of arrest which he disputes. We are not a state party under the Rome Statue. We have no obligation under the Statue of Rome to execute that obligation," he said. (Sudan Tribune, June 6)

President Al-Bashir has traveled to other countries since the indictments were issued against him in March. He visited Qatar, Egypt, Eritrea and Ethiopia since March and has been welcomed by the governments of these states.

On June 8 an African Union (AU) meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia convened with representatives of 30 countries who are signatories to the Rome Statue that established the International Criminal Court. African nations constitute the largest regional group which has recognized the ICC, yet they are charging that the Court unfairly targets African leaders. All of the indictments issued by the ICC have been against former African leaders and officials, rebel commanders and of course the sitting head-of-state in Sudan.

Although a number of organizations inside the United States and the government itself has accused Sudan of genocide in Darfur, the ICC indictments speak only of war crimes and crimes against humanity. In a recent statement by President Barack Obama in Germany criticizing Sudan and charging the government there with genocide, the U.S. leader said that his administration is still very much engaged in seeking a resolution to the conflict in Darfur.

However, the Sudanese foreign ministry spokesperson Ali Al-Sadiq responded to Obama by saying that the statements made by the U.S. president were "out of context" and politically-motivated. Al-Sadiq pointed out that the newly-appointed U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan, Scott Gration, did not accuse the African state of genocide during a recent visit to the country.

According to the Sudan Tribune "Al-Sadiq said that even the judges at the International Criminal Court dropped the genocide charges against Sudanese president Omar Hassan Al-Bashir last March. The Sudanese diplomat's statements mark a rare criticism of the new U.S. administration. Washington appeared to soften its tone toward Khartoum and even suggested that normalizing bilateral relations and lifting sanctions imposed since 1997 are on the table." (Sudan Tribune, June 7)

Supporters of the Darfur rebel movements in Sudan have been critical of Obama's efforts in recent months. They are saying that he is backing away from promises made during the campaign of 2008 for Washington to take an even tougher line towards the Sudanese government on the Darfur question.

The ICC and the Struggle Against Imperialism

Sudan is one of Africa's major oil-producing countries and has therefore been targeted for destabilization and domination by the western imperialist states led by the U.S. The country has maintained an independent domestic and foreign policy over the last two decades and has refused to cooperate with the U.S. in a number of its initiatives related to the Iraq war, relations with Iran and Palestine.

Earlier this year the Israeli Air Force bombed a convoy of vehicles in Sudan claiming that the government was involved in arms shipments from the Islamic Republic of Iran to Palestinians in Gaza. The Darfur support movement in the United States is largely composed of pro-Israeli organizations who have continued to make unsubstantiated claims of genocide against the Al-Bashir government.

In a recent article by Zafar Bangash, the author states that "Church groups, Zionists and a number of Western governments are interfering in Sudan. Since all people in Darfur are Muslim, the anti-Muslim card cannot be used as was so effectively done in Southern Sudan. Here, an ethnic twist is utilized: the Darfurians are presented as 'Africans' while the central government in Khartoum is run by 'Arabs'.

"Why Arabs cannot be Africans is not explained but the propagandists can count on the ignorance of their own people, especially in North America. Africa is a continent and being African is not an ethnic label: if white South Africans are considered Africans because they reside in an African country, on what logic are northern 'Arab' Sudanese excluded from being African?" (The ICC: An Instrument of Imperialism)

When the Rome Statute was established in 2002 only 66 out of the world's 192 countries ratified it, which is only one-third of the recognized states within the United Nations. At present the number of signatories to the Rome Statute has reached a total of 108 states.

Even three peramanent members of the Security Council, the U.S., Russia and China, have not ratified the Rome Statute and are therefore not bound by the ICC. Nevertheless, the ICC is being utilized by the imperialist states to undermine the sovereignty of Sudan.

The fact that only Africans have been indicted by the ICC calls its legitimacy into serious question. Bangash points out in his article that "The non-ratifiers clearly have no faith in it for a variety of reasons ranging from reluctance to relinquish sovereignty to seeing it as the white man's justice.

"Since the overwhelming majority of countries in the world fall in the category of 'non-white' and are situated in the South--as opposed to the European and North American North--this division clearly comes into play."

Moreover, the genocidal policies carried out historically by the western imperialist states have never been addressed by any of the existing international bodies. The founding of the European colonies in the western hemisphere resulted in the mass extermination of the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean, Latin America and North America.

In addition, the Atlantic slave trade that went on for over three centuries transported tens of millions of Africans from the continent to the western hemisphere for the sole purpose of labor exploitation. Millions of Africans died in the process and even today there has never been any effort to pay reparations or make amends for this historical injustice.

Over the last two decades, over 1.5 million Iraqis died as a result of the Gulf War and sanctions between 1991-2003. The invasion and occupation of Iraq led by the United States and Britain between 2003-2009 has brought about the deaths of another 1.3 million people and the displacement of 4 million others.

There is well-documented evidence of torture and other crimes against humanity leveled against people in Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia. Yet the ICC or other western-based and controlled institutions have taken no action against these horrendous crimes.

Consequently, the targeting of Sudan by the imperialist states must be opposed by anti-war and social justice advocates in the western countries. This double-standard must be exposed and the real perpetrators of racism, national oppression and genocide should be brought to justice for their crimes against humanity.
Abayomi Azikiwe is the editor of the Pan-African News Wire and has written numerous articles on U.S.-Sudanese relations over the last two years.

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