/ 4 August 2008

Stall on al-Bashir warrant, Muslim states urge

Islamic countries urged the United Nations Security Council on Monday to stall any move by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to issue an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

Ministers from member states of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) ”urged the UN Security Council to suspend indefinitely the move by the [ICC] prosecutor directed against President Omar Hassan al-Bashir”, they said in a statement after a meeting at OIC headquarters in the Saudi city of Jeddah.

They decided that the OIC ”should coordinate its efforts with the African Union, the League of Arab States, the Non-Aligned Movement and other political groupings to support steps in the UN and elsewhere aimed at defusing this dangerous situation”.

The call echoed appeals by the African Union and the Arab League for the Security Council to defer any move against al-Bashir for a year amid warnings it risks stoking further unrest in conflict-ridden Sudan.

ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo last month requested an arrest warrant be issued against al-Bashir over suspicions that he was involved in war crimes in the western Sudanese region of Darfur.

If approved, it would be the first arrest warrant issued by the world tribunal against a sitting head of state.

South Africa and Libya asked the UN Security Council last week to use its powers to delay any action against al-Bashir for 12 months, but the UN has said it would be wrong to do anything that might bring into question the independence of the ICC.

The ICC prosecutor accuses al-Bashir of personally instructing his forces to annihilate three non-Arab ethnic groups in Darfur and of masterminding murder, torture, pillage and the use of rape to commit genocide.

But the OIC ministers described his request for an arrest warrant as ”unwarranted and unacceptable”, and expressed ”deep concern” that it could undermine efforts to resolve the Darfur conflict and promote peace in Sudan.

The UN says that up to 300 000 people have died and more than 2,2-million fled their homes since ethnic minority rebels in Darfur rose up against the Arab-dominated regime in Khartoum in February 2003. The Sudanese government says 10 000 people have been killed. — Sapa-AFP