SUDAN WATCH: Hey Africa correspondent Alex Duval Smith: Is your report in the Observer true or what?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Hey Africa correspondent Alex Duval Smith: Is your report in the Observer true or what?

Note to self to look into three reports by the Sudan Tribune, copied here below. Right now it is 22:54, I am overtired and cannot find an email address for Alex Duval Smith, Africa correspondent for The Observer, to query his report (Observer, September 14, 2008 'Britain blocks prosecution of Sudan's ruler') publicised here at Sudan Watch under the heading 'UK works with France to block ICC's prosecution of Sudan's President Al-Bashir'. I wanted the report to be true but was mindful to use the word "reportedly" and not quote the words "under which Bashir could be let off the hook". [Afterthought: I say this because I think he should not even be "on the hook"]

Calling Alex Duval Smith: which bits of your report are innaccurate? Calling Sudan Tribune: please credit source of your reports, especially the one entitled 'British official denies plans to freeze ICC indictment of Sudan’s Bashir' (copied here below). Calling Lord Malloch-Brown: which bits of Alex Duval Smith's report are innacurate?

PS Check out the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Flickr photostream and Lord Malloch-Brown in Darfur and Khartoum, Sudan
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Copy of Sudan Tribune report
Thursday 18 September 2008 15:35

British official denies plans to freeze ICC indictment of Sudan’s Bashir:

September 18, 2008 (WASHINGTON) — The United Kingdom has no plans of supporting a suspension of the International Criminal Court (ICC) indictment against Al-Bashir, a senior British official said today.

Last week the Guardian newspaper published a report saying that the British and French governments will back efforts in the UN to stall the issuance of an arrest warrant for Al-Bashir.

The newspaper said that officials from both capitals informed human rights activists that they have taken this stance to protect the peace process in Darfur and Southern Sudan.

“There was a rather inaccurate press story about this last weekend” Lord Malloch Brown UK Foreign Office Minister for Africa said yesterday during forum at the Frontline Club in London.

“I think it is a very bad idea [suspension]…We are extremely wary of doing anything to interfere with the independence of the ICC. We look at it as one of the most important international innovation of recent years” Brown said.

The British official said he told Sudan that “there is no bargaining” before adding that London “cannot sellout the International Court or the justice system”.

Brown said it is up to Sudan to convince the UN Security Council (UNSC) that is undertaking a “fundamental change...in addressing the internal issues of justice, politics, peacekeeping, but we have not seen that”.

“If you showed a willingness to really engage with the other two people who had been indicted who are still enjoying senior government jobs. If you really now turned around helped get UNAMID fully deployed and if you also engage in a no-hole barred effort with the rebel groups to do a peace agreement then you would face a completely different environment in the UN Security Council” he added.

The British minister said that on the issues of the two Sudanese suspects indicted by the ICC previously, the UNSC has been held “hostage” to Sudan wanting to see UNAMID force deployed and political negotiations between the government and rebels.

However he acknowledged that Al-Bashir’s indictment does not have the support of African leaders who he said feel that the ICC is “is real intrusion of Western institution into Africa’s affairs where you can start indicting African leaders while in office.”.

“They [African leaders] say who is next? It is not that they think Bashir is not guilty of things. But they could imagine circumstances that some smooth well spoken opposition leader fooling Westerners into thinking that they were human right abusers right or wrong and then suddenly there was an indictment against them”.

In mid-July the ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo announced that he is seeking an arrest warrant for Al-Bashir.

The ICC’s prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo filed 10 charges: three counts of genocide, five of crimes against humanity and two of murder. Judges are expected to take months to study the evidence before deciding whether to order Al-Bashir’s arrest.

Sudan and a number of regional organizations including the African Union (AU), Arab League, Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) condemned Ocampo’s request and called on the UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution deferring Al-Bashir’s indictment.

Article 16 of the Rome Statute allows the UNSC to suspend the ICC prosecutions in any case for a period of 12 months that can be renewed indefinitely.

Sudan has not ratified the Rome Statute, but the UNSC triggered the provisions under the Statute that enables it to refer situations in non-State parties to the world court if it deems that it is a threat to international peace and security. (ST)
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Copy of Sudan Tribune report
Sunday 14 September 2008 06:34.

Britain & France will support freezing indictment of Sudan president

September 13, 2008 (KHARTOUM) – The British and French government will back efforts in the UN to stall the issuance of an arrest warrant for Sudan president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir, the Guardian reported today.

The newspaper said that officials from both capitals informed human rights activists that they have taken this stance to protect the peace process in Darfur and Southern Sudan.

The human right advocates said that Britain and France will join the Arab League, African Union, China, and Russia in backing a resolution by the UN General Assembly this month requesting a deferral of the charges against Al-Bashir.

Both UK & France are members of the Hague based court and have been the main advocates of referring the Darfur case to the ICC.

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Luis Moreno-Ocampo announced in mid-July that he requested an arrest warrant for Al-Bashir.

Ocampo filed 10 charges: three counts of genocide, five of crimes against humanity and two of murder and accused Al-Bashir of masterminding a campaign to get rid of the African tribes in Darfur; Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa.

Following that the AU, Arab League, Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) called for invoking Article 16 which allows the UN Security Council (UNSC) to suspend the ICC prosecutions in any case for a period of 12 months that can be renewed indefinitely.

Libya and South Africa sought to force a suspension in the UNAMID extension resolution last July but failed to get the required number of votes and instead accepted a watered down paragraph taking note of the AU concern on the ICC move to seek an arrest warrant for Al-Bashir.

Foreign Office Minister for Africa Mark Malloch speaking to the Guardian defended his government’s position.

“’It is precisely because we respect the ICC that we do not want to bargain away [its authority]. This is not about handing a defeat to the court in its early life. But Khartoum has interpreted the indictment against Bashir as a measure that pits Sudan against the Western world” Malloch said.

“A great deal is at stake; not just Darfur but the peace process in southern Sudan. We have to keep hold of the strategic intentions of the ICC, which we share - to end impunity and increase security in Darfur” he added.

But Steve Crawshaw of Human Rights Watch (HRW) rejected Malloch’s arguments.

“Justice is not a tradeable option. We have seen again and again that Sudan makes empty promises. To think that Sudan is likely to act in good faith is either naive or cynical” he said.

An ICC official speaking to the Guardian said that they would meet UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband and his French counterpart, Bernard Kouchner, to outline the ICC’s position on September 23rd.

It was not clear however if Paris or London intend to table down a formal resolution in the UNSC calling for a suspension or if they would just simply not use their veto power to block it.

Moreover the US position on the matter remains unclear. The Los Angeles Times said that Washington offered Khartoum not to stand in the way of a suspension in return for concession in terms of Darfur peace process and deployment of peacekeepers.

In July the US abstained from a resolution extending the mandate of the UN-African Union (AU) hybrid force in Darfur (UNAMID) because of a paragraph incorporated that spoke about the possibility of a suspension.

In explaining the abstention US Representative to the UN Alejandro Wolff said his government strongly supports UNAMID but that the “language added to the resolution would send the wrong signal to the Sudanese president Omar Hassan Al-Bashir and undermine efforts to bring him and others to justice”.

Wolff said that the paragraph which they objected to comes at a “very important time when we are trying to eliminate the climate of impunity to deal with justice and address crimes in Darfur by suggesting there is a way out”.

“There is no compromise on the issue of justice, the climate of impunity has gone on for too long and the United States felt it was time to stand up on this point of moral clarity that this permanent member of the UNSC will not compromise on the issue of justice” he stressed.

“The issue before us is to make clear to those who are guilty of criminal activity and complicit in the horrors that befallen on the people of Darfur that there can be no escape…anything that signals a way out or any easy way to circumvent that we believe need to be opposed” the US diplomat said.

He also said that the US “disagrees” with the AU request to block the ICC’s prosecutor request of an arrest warrant against Sudan president.

The issue of invoking Article 16 of Rome Statute comes at a very sensitive time for the Bush Administration in an elections year. It may be politically damaging for the Republican Party to allow such a resolution to pass in the UNSC.

Darfur advocacy groups including ‘Save Darfur’ coalition in the US have already started campaigning against any suspension.

Sudan has not ratified the Rome Statute, but the UNSC triggered the provisions under the Statute that enables it to refer situations in non-State parties to the world court if it deems that it is a threat to international peace and security. (ST)
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Copy of Sudan Tribune report
Thursday 18 September 2008 05:30

France says Sudan’s cooperation with ICC a condition to defer Bashir Indictment

September 17, 2008 (NEW YORK) – The French government today called on Sudan to cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC) for it to consider suspending the indictment of Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir.

In mid-July the ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo announced that he is seeking an arrest warrant for Al-Bashir.

The ICC’s prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo filed 10 charges: three counts of genocide, five of crimes against humanity and two of murder. Judges are expected to take months to study the evidence before deciding whether to order Al-Bashir’s arrest.

Sudan and a number of regional organizations including the African Union (AU), Arab League, Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) condemned Ocampo’s request and called on the UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution deferring Al-Bashir’s indictment.

The French Foreign ministry deputy spokesman Frederic Desagneaux said in statements reported by Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) today that Sudan must cooperate with The Hague based court on extraditing two officials for which arrest warrants were issued by the ICC.

“Concerning Sudan, we call on the Sudanese authorities to commit, without delay, to the necessary cooperation with the ICC and the international community, starting with the application of arrest warrants already handed down by the Court for Ahmed Haroun and Ali Kushayb” Desagneaux said.

Later the French Ambassador to the UN Jean-Maurice Ripert appeared to be taking a softer stance on the issue.

“We had extensive meetings with representatives of the African Union (AU) and I think we are passing the same kind of messages [to Sudan] which stop the killings, stop the military action in Darfur…Do what you can do to alleviate the human suffering and improve the humanitarian access to Darfur...increase and improve the capacity of the authorities to participate in a political dialogue with all political forces….improve your relationship with Chad” Ripert said.

The French envoy stressed that Sudan “has to cooperate with the ICC”.

“I said it repeatedly here. Whatever they do they have to cooperate officially with the ICC. If they want to trial their own citizens in their own countries this is allowed by the [Rome] treaty. But they have to do that in agreement with the ICC. It is never too late to cooperate” he said.

“There are two indicted; Mr. Haroun and Mr. Kushayb. They can cooperate with the ICC on how to try those two people if they want to cooperate. We will see then what happens” the French official added.

“For the moment there is no initiative. If the issue is raised we’ll see. We will see the circumstances” before saying that if Sudan meets these conditions along with facilitating deployment of UNAMID they are willing to support the suspension.

The ICC Statute prevents investigation into crimes that were looked into by local judiciary under the concept of “complementarity”.

The judges of the ICC issued arrest warrants last year for Ahmed Haroun, state minister for humanitarian affairs, and militia commander Ali Mohamed Ali Abdel-Rahman, also know as Ali Kushayb in connection with Darfur war crimes.

Sudan must prosecute Haroun and Kushayb for the same accusations brought against them by the ICC in order for the latter to lose jurisdiction over their cases. Moreover Sudan must then challenge the ICC jurisdiction with the judges.

Last year the Sudanese prosecutor general Salah Abu-Zeid announced that Haroun would be probed on events relating to Darfur war crimes.

But a few days later after Abu-Zeid’s announcement the Sudanese president blocked the investigation and told the daily Al-Sudani newspaper in March 2007 that Haroun “will not resign and will not be dismissed”.

Al-Bashir also said in the interview that Haroun is cleared from any wrongdoings and that he was performing his duties in protecting the lives of citizens and their properties against rebel attacks.

“We don’t know how far up [chain of command] Ocampo’s intends to go to talk about Haroun’s resignation” he added.

Khartoum had long claimed that Kushayb was in custody since November 2006 for investigations into allegations of violations he committed during the peak of the Darfur conflict in 2004.

Sudan’s former Justice Minister Mohamed Ali al-Mardi told a news conference in Khartoum in February 2007 that “"Ali Kushayb, along with two other individuals, was sent for trial. He was detained as a suspect, questioned, his statements were evaluated and witness statements recorded, and then the decision was taken to refer him to court".

But in March 2007 Kushayb’s trial was delayed when the defendants filed an appeal with the Justice ministry after which Abu-Zeid told reporters that Kushayb’s appeal was denied that there is “sufficient evidence to proceed with the case”.

Shortly afterwards the Sudanese justice ministry ordered a ban on publishing reports or details relating to criminal cases on Darfur conflict and many observers at the time voiced skepticism over Khartoum’s seriousness to try perpetrators of crimes in the war ravaged region.

In early October Sudan’s former foreign minister Lam Akol told the pro-government daily Al-Rayaam from New York that Kushayb was freed “due to lack of incriminating evidence against him”.

However Al-Mardi issued a quick denial to the Al-Rayaam report describing it as “false” without directly commenting on Akol’s statements.

The former Justice Minister was asked again by Al-Rayaam last November on the whereabouts of Kushayb and he reiterated that the militia leader was “never released” before saying that he refrained from commenting on the issue “because it is under investigation”.

Then in April the spokesman for the Sudanese embassy in London, Khalid Al-Mubarak was quoted by Voice of America (VOA) as saying that Haroun and Kushayb were not prosecuted “because there is no evidence against them”.

In June Amin Hassan Omar, a leading figure in the National Congress Party (NCP) and a state minister also confirmed Kushayb’s release.

Last month the Sudanese justice minister Abdel-Basit Sabdarat announced that he appointed a special prosecutor to look into rights abuses committed in war ravaged region of Darfur since 2003.

Sabdarat named Nimr Ibrahim Mohamed as the Darfur prosecutor with 3 assistants; Kamal Mahjoub Ahmed, Al-Hadi Mahjoub Makkawi and Mamoun Mekki Hamid.

Nimr said he is reviewing Kushayb’s file to determine if the case warrants sending it back to court.

But it is unlikely that Haroun would stand trial in court. Sudanese officials also accused France of want to force them to deal with the ICC with regards to Haroun and Kushayb in a sign of recognition to the court.

Khartoum further said it will not accept a tradeoff that suspends Al-Bashir’s indictment in return for handing over the two suspects.

Sudan has not ratified the Rome Statute, but the UNSC triggered the provisions under the Statute that enables it to refer situations in non-State parties to the world court if it deems that it is a threat to international peace and security. (ST)
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Further reading

Sudan Tribune Wednesday September 17, 2008 report entitled: Sudan Tribune report on ICC warrant ‘false’: Official

Note: The 'redacted' application is available at http://www.icc-cpi.int/library/cases/ICC-02-05-157-AnxA-ENG.pdf

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