SUDAN WATCH: ICC judges might issue the ruling on Sudan's President Bashir Feb. 20 - JEM won’t deal with “indicted war criminals”

Friday, February 06, 2009

ICC judges might issue the ruling on Sudan's President Bashir Feb. 20 - JEM won’t deal with “indicted war criminals”

Ottawa is expected to declare its support if a three-judge panel of the International Criminal Court issues an arrest warrant for Omar al-Bashir on charges of committing genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in western Sudan’s Darfur region.

February 20th has been quietly fed to concerned governments, the UN and aid groups operating in Darfur to give them a chance to take precautions they deem necessary, say people familiar with the court.

However, ICC spokeswoman Nicola Fletcher said only the judges know when they will make their decision public, and “no date has been announced.”

JEM has said it won’t deal with “indicted war criminals,” thereby threatening behind-the-scenes efforts to create a peace-process road map.

Source: the following report.

Sudan backlash expected if leader indicted: UN
By Steven Edwards
Canwest News Service February 5, 2009

UNITED NATIONS — Canada is among western countries bracing for possible retaliation against its embassy in Sudan ahead of the likely war-crimes indictment this month of the North African country’s leader.

Ottawa is expected to declare its support if a three-judge panel of the International Criminal Court issues an arrest warrant for Omar al-Bashir on charges of committing genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in western Sudan’s Darfur region.

But such a declaration could make Canadian officials in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, a target of backlash.

There is a wider concern that an indictment will provoke a spike in violence in Darfur, where the UN estimates as many as 300,000 people have died since unrest resumed in February 2003.

“We have received assurances of protection and co-operation from Sudanese authorities at the highest levels,” Ashraf Qazi, the UN envoy to Sudan, told the UN Security Council Thursday.

“But these assurances have been qualified by warnings about public outrage. There have also been public threats and incitements to violence.”

Potentially making the problem worse is word the judges will issue the ruling Feb. 20 — a Friday when large numbers of Khartoum’s almost exclusively Muslim population will be in the streets after attending mosques.

The date has been quietly fed to concerned governments, the UN and aid groups operating in Darfur to give them a chance to take precautions they deem necessary, say people familiar with the court.

However, ICC spokeswoman Nicola Fletcher said only the judges know when they will make their decision public, and “no date has been announced.”

ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo applied last July for the arrest warrant, accusing Bashir of being behind an alleged bid by the Arab-led government to wipe out three black-African tribes in Darfur after rebels there rose up over poor living conditions.

An arrest warrant would be the first issued by the court — established in 2002 to pursue authors of the world’s worst human rights atrocities — against a sitting head of state.

“We cannot predict what the public outrage would be,” said Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem, Sudan’s ambassador to the UN.

“This would be a crazy move, an insult to the country. It would be like a dead rat, smelling, but having no use at all. It would die a natural death.”

It emerged this week that U.S. President Barack Obama will support implementing the war crimes indictment, while Canada Thursday reinforced its advisory that Canadians should stay away from Sudan.

“It would be premature to comment on this specific case, but Canada is a strong supporter of the International Criminal Court and its investigations in Sudan,” said Catherine Loubier, spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon.

Among four Canadian officials serving at the Canadian Embassy in Khartoum is a representative of the Canadian International Development Agency to help oversee Canadian aid in the country, currently budgeted at $191 million.

One thought is any backlash may be limited to asking pro-ICC Western governments to withdraw some or all of their diplomats.

There is concern, however, a response could see the Sudanese government claim it is unable to control angry mobs in the streets, leading to attacks on westerners.

Under such circumstances, it would be very difficult to evacuate officials, planners say.

The latest fighting in Darfur has taken place in and around the region’s southern town of Muhajiriya, which had been seized by the rebel group known as the Justice and Equality Movement.

A small contingent of the joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force had been trying to protect some 20,000 civilians trapped in the area as Sudanese forces bombed the town in what Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the UN, said Tuesday was “in anticipation of an arrest warrant.”

The UN persuaded JEM to withdraw, and proceeded to try to declare the area a “no-fire” zone.

Even JEM, however, may be spoiling for more fighting. According to some internal reports, its leadership has said it won’t deal with “indicted war criminals,” thereby threatening behind-the-scenes efforts to create a peace-process road map.

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