African & Arab governments urge suspension of Bashir indictment - Washington Official says warrant for Sudan leader by month's end
Africa Urges Suspension of Bashir Arrest Warrant
DARFUR, Sudan - African and Arab governments are expected to press the United Nations Security Council to defer the indictment of Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir on war crimes charges on the grounds that it could disrupt peace processes in the country.- - -
The current president of the council, Japanese ambassador Yukio Takasu, confirmed to UN correspondents in New York on Wednesday that a meeting was being arranged between the council and a delegation from the African Union and the Arab League for Thursday.
He was commenting on reports that the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague has decided to issue an arrest warrant for Bashir. The ICC prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, last July asked the court to order the arrest of Bashir on 10 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes arising out of the conflict in Darfur.
The prosecutor alleged that Sudanese armed forces and Darfur's Janjaweed militia had been acting on Bashir's orders during a five-year-long campaign of attacking and destroying villages in the region.
Reuters news agency and the New York Times have reported from the UN that the ICC has decided to issue the warrant. However, the court has made no announcement and Takasu said the Security Council had heard "nothing official yet."
Takasu added: "We have been getting a lot of news and indications... The prevailing view in the council is let's wait until it happens and deal it with when it comes."Under the Rome Statute, which set up the court, the Security Council has the power to defer a prosecution for up to a year at a time.
Last month an Afro-Arab ministerial committee on Darfur, meeting in Doha to prepare for the Darfur peace talks currently being held in the city, called on the council to defer all the Darfur cases referred to the ICC with a view to creating conditions conducive to the talks.
February 12, 2009 AP report by Mike Corder (THE HAGUE, Netherlands):
Officials: warrant for Sudan leader by month's end
The International Criminal Court is expected to issue an arrest warrant for Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir this month in connection with atrocities in his country's Darfur region, a U.S. official said. [...]- - -
In Washington, a senior U.S. official said the Obama administration expected the arrest warrant "to come down before the end of the month." The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic sensitivity of the situation.
The New York Times, citing unnamed lawyers and diplomats, reported late Wednesday that judges have decided to issue a warrant.
In response, the court issued a statement Thursday that "no decision has yet been taken by the judges." [...]
United Nations spokeswoman Marie Okabe said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has not been told of any decision by the court.
The court is independent of the United Nations, but the Security Council called for an investigation into possible war crimes in Darfur. [...]
Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Ali al-Sadiq underscored Wednesday that "Sudan will not hand over any of its citizens to the ICC and any indictment by the ICC is categorically rejected."
Speaking in Khartoum, al-Sadiq said that the court is "a mere tool for political conspiracy against the Sudan and that it has nothing to do with the international justice."
A leader of Darfur's strongest rebel group, the Justice and Equality Movement, said al-Bashir should turn himself in if there is an indictment and that would not affect peace talks with the Sudanese government in Doha, Qatar.
"A decision (by the ICC) won't affect the Doha negotiation track, instead it reinforces the need for negotiations ... this will help in reaching peace," Khalil Ibrahim said. "Peace is not a substitute for justice. We want peace and we want justice for all the people". [...]
Associated Press Writers Matthew Lee in Washington, Sarah El Deeb in Cairo, Egypt, and John Heilprin at the United Nations contributed to this report.
From Sudan Radio Service (Nairobi) Thursday, 12 Feb. 2009:
ICC Denies Issuing Warrant for Al-Bashir
Speaking to Sudan Radio Service from The Hague, ICC spokeswoman Sonia Robla has described as untrue a Reuters report which claims that judges at the International Criminal Court have decided to issue an arrest warrant for President Omar Al-Bashir.- - -
[Sonia Robla]: “No, what I can confirm is it is absolutely not true. It is not true. There is no warrant issued by the International Criminal Court judges at all. It’s a big mistake of the New York Times.”
According to Reuters, a diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity in New York on Wednesday night, said that the decision to indict al-Bashir on charges of war crimes in Darfur was made earlier this week. It would be the first time the court has requested the arrest of a sitting head of state.
The report indicates that the decision to issue a warrant against the Sudanese president, reached by a panel of judges in The Hague, has been sent to the United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon and is expected to be formally announced at the ICC later today (Thursday).
Although the exact details of the charges against al- Bashir have yet to be revealed, the ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo he said he had evidence to support accusations of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
However, once an arrest warrant is issued by the court, the United Nations Security Council can request that it be postponed. There has been intense lobbying, notably among members of the African Union and the Arab League, to suspend the proceedings against al-Bashir for a year.
The African Union and the Arab League have argued that issuing an arrest warrant against al-Bashir could escalate the conflict in Darfur and threaten the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, a treaty signed in 2005 which brought an end to 21 years of civil war.
UN officials have warned of the danger of attacks against UN staff, western diplomats and relief agency workers in Khartoum if the ICC decided to issue the warrant.
Amnesty International and other human rights groups have insisted that the arrest warrant should be issued and that President al-Bashir should stand trial in The Hague, arguing that there can be no peace in Darfur without justice.
UN officials in New York indicated they had evidence that the International Criminal Court judges were determined to arrest al-Bashir. Although they declined to be named, the officials said that the decision was widely expected and was originally to be made public later this month.
Voice of America report by Derek Kilner, Nairobi, Thursday, 12 February 2009:
ICC Says No Decision Reached on Bashir
The International Criminal Court has denied media reports the court's judges have agreed to issue an arrest warrant for Sudanese president Omar al Bashir.
According to The New York Times newspaper and the Reuters news agency, diplomats at the United Nations have said International Criminal Court judges have approved an arrest warrant for Sudan President Omar al-Bashir.
But the ICC has issued a statement saying that no warrant has been issued and the judges have not made a decision. An official announcement is expected sometime in February.
The ICC chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, is seeking to charge President al-Bashir with war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide for the Sudanese government's role in the conflict in the western region of Darfur. The reports did not say which charges the judges had agreed to.
Meanwhile, negotiations continue in Qatar between the Justice and Equality Movement and the government of Sudan. JEM-leader Khalil Ibrahim joined the negotiations for the first time Wednesday. JEM officials have said the talks are focusing on confidence-building measures.
Sudanese opposition welcomes arrest warrant
A representative of the Justice and Equality Movement, Abdullah El-Tom, says the group would welcome the announcement of an arrest warrant for President al-Bashir, but that it is waiting for an official announcement.
"JEM would certainly welcome that and celebrate that kind of decision if it comes out. But until now it is media reports," said El-Tom.
U.N. and humanitarian officials have expressed concern that a warrant for President al-Bashir's arrest could lead to retaliation against their representatives in Sudan. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, told a news conference on Tuesday that he had brought up the concern in a meeting with President al-Bashir in Ethiopia during the weekend.
"Whatever the circumstances or decision of the ICC may be it will be very important for President Bashir and the Sudanese government to react very responsibly and ensure safety and security of United Nations peacekeepers and protect the human rights of all the populations. And he should fully cooperate with whatever decision the ICC makes," said Ban.
A spokesman for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Darfur, Noureddine Mezni, told VOA that the force already has been operating at a heightened security level since last summer.
The African Union, the Arab League, and China have all called for the request for the arrest warrant to be delayed for a year. But it is not clear how far such countries would go to support Sudan's president were a warrant issued.[...]