SUDAN WATCH: UN chief: Sudan president could avoid ICC prosecution

Thursday, March 12, 2009

UN chief: Sudan president could avoid ICC prosecution

From The Associated Press March 12, 2009
UN chief: Sudan president could avoid prosecution
UNITED NATIONS: The U.N. chief said Thursday it's possible that Sudan's president could avoid international prosecution for war crimes in Darfur if his own country takes legal action.

The International Criminal Court, which recently issued an arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir, only steps in to prosecute alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide if countries cannot or do not take action themselves.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a news conference that even though the international court recently issued warrants for al-Bashir's arrest for war crimes and crimes against humanity, it was not too late for Sudan's own courts to take "very credible" measures to prosecute those responsible for crimes in Darfur.

Ban said it would then be up to the U.N. Security Council, which referred the Darfur case to the International Criminal Court, and the International Court itself to determine whether the domestic measures would meet the requirements of the ICC's provisions.

The secretary-general did not make it clear if he was suggesting that Sudan prosecute al-Bashir or others for the problems in Darfur.

Al-Bashir has been accused of leading a counterinsurgency campaign against Darfur rebel groups that involved rapes, killings and other atrocities against civilians. Up to 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million driven from their homes in the conflict since 2003, the U.N. says.

Asked about the ICC warrants for al-Bashir's arrest, Ban noted that the African Union, the Arab League and others were seeking to delay his arrest.

The Security Council has the authority to pass a resolution to defer or suspend prosecution for a year and representatives from the Arab and African groups are expected in New York next week to press council members for a delay.

Ban said the Sudanese government should start its own "reasonable and credible" judicial process before seeking to defer al-Bashir's prosecution by the International Criminal Court.

The secretary-general was then asked whether he was suggesting that the Sudanese courts launch their own prosecution against their president.

He did not answer the question but told reporters that before the ICC issued the arrest warrants, "while engaging with him directly, I've been advising him and urging him to take, first of all domestic judiciary measures — very credible."

Asked if it wasn't too late, Ban said: "You can never say that it is too late. ... Even now, I think they can take and they should take the necessary measures."

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