Thursday, September 18, 2008

President Mbeki Says ICC Case Against Sudan is Bad for Region

Mbeki: ICC case against al-Bashir bad for Darfur

Tue Sep 16, 4:25 PM ET

South Africa's president said Tuesday the prosecution of his Sudanese counterpart for genocide in Darfur would undermine efforts to resolve the 5-year-old conflict there.

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in July sought to charge Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir for genocide in Darfur and asked the court for an arrest warrant. No decision has been issued.

Thabo Mbeki told reporters after his two-day trip to Khartoum that prosecuting al-Bashir would be counterproductive.

"This (prosecution) will not help to resolve the challenges that we are facing in the Sudan," Mbeki told reporters at a news conference with al-Bashir. "It could not make any positive contribution in that regard and therefore we are against it."

A statement by Mbeki later said the prosecution "could seriously undermine the ongoing efforts aimed at facilitating the early resolution of the conflict in Darfur and the promotion of long-lasting peace and reconciliation in the Sudan."

He added that it would only lead to further suffering for the Sudanese and would destabilize the region.

South Africa and Libya, backed by veto-wielding Russia and China, have pushed for a U.N. Security council resolution to hold off for a year any efforts to prosecute al-Bashir. Critics say freezing the prosecution would embolden the government.

Up to 300,000 people have been killed and more than 2.5 million people displaced since the conflict erupted in 2003 between ethnic African rebels and the Arab-dominated government and its militia. The rebels complained of discrimination and neglect for their far-flung western region.

Efforts to reach a peace deal have resulted in a largely ignored treaty and cease-fire, while the conflict became more intractable and complex.

Another two-decade-old conflict between the north and south only ended in 2005 with a power sharing deal.

Mbeki said his country and the regional African Union will work to persuade opponents that the prosecution is counterproductive.

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