AU wants UN Security Council to suspend ICC charges against Sudan's Bashir while it seeks another solution to the problem
UN fears violence if el-Bashir is charged
The United Nations is bracing itself for the reaction of Sudan's President Omar el-Bashir if the International Criminal Court (ICC) indicts him for war crimes in Darfur this week, as is widely expected.
The ICC said it will announce on Wednesday, whether to go ahead and press charges against el-Bashir for orchestrating the killing of thousands of civilians in Darfur.
The ICC prosecutor last year requested the court's judges to indict el-Bashir for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, alleging that, as the head of state, he bears responsibility for government violence against civilians in Darfur, including support for janjaweed militias who have murdered thousands.
In UN circles it is being said that the judges have already decided to press charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity but not genocide.
The UN fears that, because the ICC is a sister body, Sudanese forces will wreak revenge against UN peacekeepers in Darfur as well as humanitarian aid workers and that el-Bashir will also upset the fragile Comprehen-sive Peace Agreement with South Sudan.
UN gecretary-general Ban Ki-moon has repeatedly said throughout his present five-nation African safari - to South Africa, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Egypt - that he has met el-Bashir several times to urge him to "behave responsibly" if he is indicted.
Ban said this again yesterday at a press conference in Nairobi after meeting President Jakaya Kikwete and travelling to Arusha to see the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
He acknowledged that the implementation of the peace agreement between Khartoum and South Sudan could "face serious difficulty" if the ICC indicted el-Bashir. But he stressed that the Sudanese leaders should do nothing to upset the agreement or harm aid workers of peace-keeping troops of the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping mission Unamid.
Some UN officials believe el-Bashir will do nothing if indicted, but others fear his officials and militia allies might take an indictment as an insult to their leader and wreak revenge on peace-keepers and aid workers.
The indictment confronts Ban with a serious dilemma as he is committed to supporting the ICC, as an organisation within the UN family, and also the principle of international justice for violations of human rights.
But his first priority is to seek peace in Darfur and he fears these efforts could be upset by an indictment. He has acknowledged several times on this trip that there is a "delicate balance" between peace and justice.
However, on Friday he put much more stress on justice when he visited the Inter-national Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania, which has been trying the perpetrators of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda for nearly 15 years.
Ban said after meeting the judges and commending them for their work that there was "no peace without justice".
He said the work of the tribunal was crucial in sending the message to perpetrators and potential perpetrators of human rights offences that they would never enjoy impunity for their crimes.
The tribunal has indicted 79 leaders of the genocide and has, or is, trying 55 of them. But 13 are still fugitives and Ban said he suspects that they are at large mainly in central and eastern Africa. He urged the governments and people of countries in these regions to hand them over to the ICC.
In South Africa on Wednesday, Ban met former president Thabo Mbeki, who has been appointed by the AU to deal with the el-Bashir indictment. The AU wants the UN Security Council to suspend the indictment while it seeks another solution to the problem.
This could mean handing over a Sudanese minister and another official who have already been indicted by the ICC for war crimes in Darfur. Mbeki said after meeting Ban that he was seeking a balance between peace and justice and that Ban was in agreement with those goals.