SUDAN WATCH: ICC's Ocampo says if judges do not issue a warrant against Sudan's President Bashir, he would appeal

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

ICC's Ocampo says if judges do not issue a warrant against Sudan's President Bashir, he would appeal

This is a curious snippet of news emerging from the ICC's prosecutor at the eleventh hour. Maybe the judges need more evidence (if it exists) to prove Darfur case as genocide. After five years of tracking news on Sudan very closely, I shall be most surprised if the judges rule Darfur as genocide but not at all surprised if they do not (and rightly so in my view) issue an arrest warrant against Sudanese President Al-Bashir. 

BBC report Tuesday, 3 March 2009 - excerpt:
'Strong evidence' for Bashir case

The war crimes court's chief prosecutor says there is strong evidence in favour of his Darfur genocide case against Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir.

Luis Moreno Ocampo said he had more than 30 witnesses prepared to testify against Mr Bashir at The Hague.

On Wednesday International Criminal Court (ICC) judges will announce if they will indict Sudan's leader.

Mr Bashir, who denies the charges, said any move by the ICC to seek his arrest would be worthless.

Sudan does not accept ICC's jurisdiction.

"Any decision by the International Criminal Court has no value for us," Sudan's leader said at the inauguration of a dam on the Nile north of Khartoum, according to AFP news agency.

"It will not be worth the ink it is written on."

Appeal

Prosecutors sought the warrants for Mr Bashir last July on 10 charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

They allege that the president mobilised Sudan's military and Arab militias in a campaign of murder, rape and forced displacement.

Mr Moreno Ocampo told a small group of reporters at the court's headquarters in The Hague: "The intention was to exterminate three ethnic groups and that is why it is genocide according to our view."

The Argentine prosecutor said if judges decided against issuing a warrant, he would appeal.

The decision of the judges is set to be announced at 1300 GMT on Wednesday at a press conference in The Hague.
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AFP report Tuesday, 3 March 2009 - excerpt:
World Court has 'strong evidence' against Sudan's Beshir: prosecutor
THE HAGUE (AFP) — Sudan's president was warned by prosecutors Tuesday that strong evidence has been compiled of his involvement in war crimes in Darfur, on the eve of a decision by judges over whether to seek his arrest.

While President Omar al-Beshir said he would regard any decision by the International Criminal Court as worthless, the ICC's chief prosecutor said he had dozens of witnesses ready to prove the veteran leader's guilt.

If the warrant is granted and an arrest carried out, the 65-year-old would become the first sitting head of state to be hauled before the ICC since the UN court opened in 2002.

"We have strong evidence against Beshir," chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told reporters in The Hague, the seat of the court.

"We have more than 30 different witnesses who will present how he managed and controlled everything," Moreno-Ocampo added.

In July last year, Moreno-Ocampo asked a pre-trial chamber to issue a warrant for Beshir's arrest on 10 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in a decision that triggered outrage in Khartoum.

Moreno-Ocampo reiterated his allegation Tuesday that genocide was being committed in camps for people displaced from their villages in Darfur where a six-year conflict has cost several hundred thousand lives.

"The weapons in the camps are rape and hunger. Five thousand people are dying each month."

As for witnesses, Moreno-Ocampo said some were being protected "because we foresaw what is happening now: they are attacking people who they believe could be our witness."

The decision of the judges is set to be announced at 1300 GMT on Wednesday.

However Beshir said on Tuesday he regarded any decision by the ICC on whether to seek his arrest would be disregarded.

"Any decision by the International Criminal Court has no value for us," Beshir said at the inauguration of a dam on the Nile north of Khartoum.

"It will not be worth the ink it is written on."

"The Western world is targeting Sudan in order to stop... its development projects but we absolutely don't care," Beshir said.

"We will respond to all these decision with new development projects."

Thousand of Sudanese gathered for the opening ceremony in an apparent show of support for the president who seized power in a coup 20 years ago, with many holding up posters of Beshir with the message: "We are with you."

Pictures of Ocampo were strewn on the ground to be trampled on by the crowd.

The prosecutor meanwhile said he had been sleeping "very well", and was prepared for any outcome.

If the judges dismissed his application for an arrest warrant in its entirety, he would appeal. If they approved the application only partly, he would analyse the reasoning before deciding how to proceed, he said.

While the United States has slapped sanctions on Beshir's regime, he has received diplomatic backing from the African Union which has called on the UN Security Council to suspend the court's proceedings.

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