Thursday, February 26, 2009

Egypt Hints at Compromise on ICC Prosecution of President Omar Al-Bashir of Sudan

Egypt hints at compromise on ICC prosecution of Sudan president

Thursday 26 February 2009

February 25, 2009 (CAIRO) — The Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Aboul-Gheit today expressed concern over a possible arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir.

Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Aboul-Gheit (AFP) Next week the ICC judges are set to decide on an application by prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo filed last July requesting the issuance of an arrest warrant for Bashir on three counts of genocide, five of crimes against humanity and two of murder.

Ocampo accused Al-Bashir of masterminding a campaign to get rid of the African tribes in Darfur; Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa.

“Egypt has a consistent position in line with the Arab League and African Union (AU) towards a deferral by the UN Security Council (UNSC) to any indictment against Bashir for at least a year” Aboul-Gheit told reporters today.

However the Egyptian official suggested that a compromise is possible between Sudan and the international community on the issue of Darfur crimes.

“The European and Western governments want Khartoum to move towards punishing those accused [of Darfur crimes]” he said.

Aboul-Gheit predicted that there will be “intense wrangling” towards an Article 16 resolution by the UNSC as well as “convincing the Sudanese government to move so it can meet with the international community somewhere in the middle”.

This is the first time an Egyptian official speaks publicly about the need for Sudan to undertake measures on the issue of Darfur war crimes.

Last weekend the Sudanese president held talks with his Egyptian counterpart behind closed doors on the ICC row.

Egyptian officials frequently referred to discussions made between President Hosni Mubarak and European leaders particularly French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

The French government insisted that Sudan must remove Ahmed Haroun, state minister for humanitarian affairs who is wanted by the ICC for 51 counts of war crimes before any deferral of prosecution was to be considered.

Sudan has refused to dismiss Haroun or investigate him but declared that it is working on prosecuting militia commander Ali Kushayb who is also wanted by the ICC.

Many observers in Sudan believe that Egypt wants its southern neighbor to begin serious judicial proceedings to block intervention by the Hague based court.

Egypt along with African and Arab countries are wary that ICC arrest warrant against Bashir will threaten fragile peace efforts in Darfur.

This month a joint Arab League-African Union (AU) delegation in New York met with UN Security Council (UNSC) members to lobby for Article 16 resolution which allows the UNSC to suspend the ICC prosecutions in any case for a period of 12 months that can be renewed indefinitely. However the supporters of Article 16 do not have the required nine votes to push through this resolution.

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