/ 13 July 2008

Indictment of Sudan’s president ‘would be disastrous’

An indictment of Sudan’s president for war crimes in Darfur would be ”disastrous” for the region and could affect humanitarian organisations working there, a Sudanese government spokesperson said on Saturday.

Mahjoub Fadul Badry told the Arabiyah news channel that if the International Criminal Court (ICC) sought to indict Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, it would be a violation of the country’s sovereignty and would have consequences.

”If an international organisation or the organisations working in the humanitarian field are behind such an indictment of the head of state, our symbol of national sovereignty, then no one should expect us to turn our left cheek,” said Badry.

He did not specify what actions might be taken but there are fears the charges could provoke reprisals against international aid workers and the United Nations-African Union peacekeepers who are already experiencing difficulties in doing their work.

The prosecutor of the ICC is expected to seek an arrest warrant on Monday charging al-Bashir with orchestrating violence in Darfur that has left hundreds of thousands of people dead.

Sudan, meanwhile, has asked for an emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers ahead of the expected indictment, according to Arab League spokesperson Abdel Aleem el-Abyad on Saturday.

Arab League chief Amr Moussa, who is currently in Paris, is making phone calls to Arab foreign ministers to set up a meeting to discuss the issue.

The court, based in The Hague, The Netherlands, said the prosecutor will present evidence of war crimes in Darfur to judges on Monday and one or more new suspects would be named. But court officials refused to identify any of the potential new suspects.

The court’s prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo of Argentina, has clearly indicated that he is aiming for the top leadership of the Sudanese government, accusing them of sponsoring the Janjaweed militias who have unleashed a reign of terror on the country’s Darfur region.

At least 300 000 people have died since the conflict began in early 2003. — Sapa-AP