Court to issue ruling on Sudan’s al-Bashir on March 4

The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague will announce on March 4 whether it will issue an arrest warrant for Sudan’s President, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur.

Bashir, the most senior figure pursued by the court since it was set up in 2002, dismisses the allegations and refuses to deal with the ICC, calling it part of a Western conspiracy.

The court’s chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo requested the warrant for Bashir last July, making him the first sitting head of state to be charged by an international court since Liberia’s Charles Taylor and Yugoslavia’s Slobodan Milosevic.

The court will announce its decision ”concerning the prosecution application of 14 July 2008 for the issuance of a warrant of arrest against President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan”, the ICC said in a statement.

On Friday South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said the country is trying to persuade the ICC to delay its indictment of al-Bashir.

She said issuing an international arrest warrant for the Sudanese leader would compromise prospects of peace in Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region.

”Our view is clear. We don’t condone impunity but at the same time peace is very important to the people of Sudan, in Darfur in particular, so we have to give the people of Sudan a chance for peace,” she said in Cape Town after talks with her Sudanese counterpart, Deng Alor.

”So we are working for a deferral so that the peace process can proceed, but at the same time Sudan can demonstrate that it is not for impunity.”

On Friday, Alor reiterated a call by Khartoum for the ICC to wait a year before bringing charges against al-Bashir, and warned that if it acted sooner, the country would refuse to hand over the president for prosecution.

”If it happens, President al-Bashir is not going to be arrested just like that. He will not be arrested if the Sudanese do not want him to be arrested.

”As long as he is in Sudan and there is no decision by anybody in Sudan to hand him over, he will just be at large in Sudan,” he said.

”We are asking for one year because this will give us time to work for a peaceful resolution in Darfur.”

Alor warned that issuing an arrest warrant for al-Bashir would ”have political consequences”.

”We have a fragile political situation. I cannot tell you how much it will impact, but it will impact on the situation.” — Reuters and Sapa

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