/ 6 February 2009

Sudan warns ICC against al-Bashir arrest

Sudan warned on Thursday that it would use ”all options” available if the International Criminal Court (ICC) were to issue an international arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir, who was charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity in the ethnic war in Darfur.

The ICC at The Hague was scheduled to decide this month whether to issue the arrest warrant requested by its prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo. The African Union (AU) and Islamic leaders oppose the warrant saying it would complicate the peace process in Sudan.

In New York, the United Nations Security Council discussed the situation in Sudan and the possibility that the ICC would move to seek the arrest of al-Bashir. Some council members said the UN could find itself in a dilemma between working for peace in Sudan and upholding justice at the same time.

Some members, including France, believe that a warrant to arrest al-Bashir would impede the peace process in Darfur and other UN programmes in that country, arguing that the Sudanese leader would be needed to settle the conflicts.

”We weigh all options to deal with this situation, but I am sure that this possible verdict … would have no use at all and we are not concerned about it all,” said Sudan’s UN Ambassador Abdalmahmoud Mohamad.

Mohamad warned of ”ramifications” if the warrant were to be issued against al-Bashir. He urged the UN to set peace as a priority in Sudan and ”to protect its own people.”

Mohamad turned against council member Jorge Urdina, Costa Rica’s UN ambassador, for demanding that peace and justice be carried out simultaneously in Darfur and criticising other council members for saying that the issue could be a dilemma for the UN.

”It’s a false dilemma,” Urdina said.

”The UN Security Council sent the case of Sudan to the ICC and it supports peace and justice,” Urdina said. ”We hope that the Security Council will be able to discuss the possible consequences of an indictment in Darfur.”

Mohamad replied: ”We need no lessons from people from Costa Rica. It’s totally unacceptable.”

Mohamad called Ocampo a ”crazy prosecutor” and said the possibility of the ICC issuing a warrant to arrest al-Bashir was a ”crazy move”.

France had suggested that the ICC should withhold the arrest warrant if al-Bashir would surrender two senior Sudanese officials charged with the killings in Darfur. The ethnic war in Darfur has killed more than 300 000 people since 2005.

Ashraf Jahangir Qazi, the UN special envoy for Sudan, told the Security Council on Thursday that implementing the peace agreement between north and south Sudan remains ”fundamental” for peace in the entire country.

”It is in this context that the impact of an ICC decision on the CPA and the Darfur situation will need to be discussed,” Qazi said.

”The purpose of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement [the north-south peace pact] is the building and keeping of peace and security in Sudan, without which no justice for its people will be possible,” Qazir said.

The UN has warned that the 2005 peace agreement could unravel because several provisions in the pact remained unimplemented, including border demarcation between north and south Sudan and issues of disarmament and a government of unity.

There are now about 13 000 international peacekeepers in Darfur and another 10 000 monitoring the peace agreement between Khartoum and southern Sudan. — Sapa-dpa