Sudan rejects ICC decision against Bashir
Sudanese presidential adviser Mustafa Osman Ismail said the government was not surprised by the decision.
"They do not want Sudan ... to become stable," he said.
Source: Reuters KHARTOUM, March 4, 2009 (Reporting by Aziz El-Kaissouni, writing by Alaa Shahine)
The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir, for war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Darfur.
Mr Bashir becomes the first sitting world leader to be called to answer charges at the Hague-based court. He has dismissed its proceedings against him as "worthless".
Judges at the court however opted not to extend the warrant for three counts of genocide that the prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, had further accused the president of "masterminding and implementing".
Aid workers and expatriates in Sudan hunkered down as they waited for expected angry demonstrations against the West, especially in Khartoum, the capital on the banks of the River Nile. Military jets were patrolling above the city.
"No one's really sure how people will react, most probably there will be some flag-burning and marching and shouting, but nothing too serious," said one British development specialist in Khartoum.
"We can't be too careful, though, at least for the rest of today we'll just stay at home and see what happens."
The three judges at the ICC's "pre-trial chamber", from Ghana, Latvia and Brazil, agreed that the chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, had presented enough evidence in seven of his ten allegations against Mr Bashir for the president to have a case to answer.
"Omar al Bashir is suspected of being criminally responsible as an indirect perpetrator for intentionally directing attacks against an important part of the civilian population of Darfur, murdering, exterminating, raping, torturing and forcibly transferring large numbers of civilians," said a court spokesman.
Two of the three judges "found that the material provided by the prosecution in support of its application for a warrant of arrest failed to provide reasonable grounds to believe that the government of Sudan acted with specific intent" to commit genocide against Darfur's three main tribes, the spokesman said.
Khartoum moved to crush an armed rebellion by Darfuri rebel groups in February 2003. More than 300,000 people have died and 2.5 million been forced from their villages into squalid camps in Darfur's three provinces, Western aid agencies calculate.
There are fears that Mr Bashir may now further hamper Western aid agencies' ability to help Darfur's displaced, or even launch fresh attacks in the name of "national security".
Whatever his reaction inside his own country, there is little immediate chance that he will appear in The Hague to answer the charges.
Sudan has not ratified the ICC's founding Rome Statute and thus has no legal requirement to hand its president over to the court. Four of Sudan's nine neighbours are similarly not parties to the court, and nor Mr Bashir's key allies in China or the Middle East.
"But if he travels to those places and they do not hand him over to the ICC, they are in effect sheltering a fugitive from international justice and impeding United Nations Security Council's resolution to co-operate in the ICC's procedures," said Christopher Hall, senior legal adviser to Amnesty International.
"I am confident that he will eventually be arrested, maybe not tomorrow, but it will happen, other people in Sudan are going to realise that having a president with an international arrest warrant out for him cannot help their country.
"For sure Mr Bashir is not going to have a good night's sleep for some time now.`'