SUDAN WATCH: UN General Assembly chief apologises over 'absurd' ICC warrant against Sudan's Bashir

Thursday, March 05, 2009

UN General Assembly chief apologises over 'absurd' ICC warrant against Sudan's Bashir

UN General Assembly president Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann said he regretted that a warrant had been issued to arrest Sudan's President, saying the move was absurd and politically-motivated.

Hassabo Mohamed Abdel-Rahman, head of the government's Humanitarian Aid Commission, said some aid groups had "passed evidence to the ICC" and made false reports of genocide and rape.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is "concerned" about the reported expulsions, a spokeswoman said. "He notes that this represents a serious setback to lifesaving operations in Darfur, and urges the government of Sudan to act urgently to restore these (non-government organizations) to their full operational status," U.N. spokeswoman Michelle Montas said.

Sudan protests

Photo: Some in the crowd carried banners branding the court's prosecutor a criminal. (Reuters)

From AFP/Reuters Thursday 05 March 2009 via abc.net:
UN Assembly chief apologises over 'absurd' ICC warrant
UN General Assembly president Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann said he regretted that a warrant had been issued to arrest Sudan's President, saying the move was absurd and politically-motivated.

"I am sorry about this decision of the ICC [International Criminal Court] and I think it's a more a decision motivated by political considerations than really for the sake of advancing the cause of justice in the world," the Nicaraguan diplomat, a former foreign minister said.

Mr Brockmann said the prosecution against President Omar al-Bashir should have been delayed, as called for by the African Union and the Arab League, in order to allow peace talks to make progress.

"A few people with a very dubious past and with very little credibility pretend to know better than the whole African Union. This is absurd and really not an adequate way to deal with this issue," he said.

The ICC on Wednesday issued the warrant against Bashir on Wednesday, accusing him of masterminding a campaign of extermination, rape and pillage during the six-year conflict in Darfur.

Mr Brockmann said that for international justice to regain its credibility, "it would be important to begin by indicting people from very powerful nations, not to pick on the smaller ones."

"This is neither brave nor do I think represents a real commitment to justice in the world," he said.

"What would help is to have some of the very powerful individuals guilty of what without a doubt represents the worst atrocities right now in the world, that they should be [indicted]."

He would not specify names of powerful nations or individuals, saying only that "everyone knows the greatest atrocities today is that being committed in Iraq."

Aid agencies expelled

Sudan's president told thousands of cheering supporters the warrant was a colonialist ploy and announced the expulsion of 10 foreign aid agencies.

Bashir said the ICC was a tool of imperialists targeting Sudan for its oil, natural gas and other resources.

"We have refused to kneel to colonialism, that is why Sudan has been targeted ... because we only kneel to God," he told a crowd outside the Republican Palace.

Cheers of "We are ready to protect religion!" and "Down, down USA!" interrupted his speech from thousands of protesters. Washington has welcomed the ICC warrant.

Some in the crowd carried banners branding the court's prosecutor a criminal and Bashir, 65, danced along to nationalist songs.

He earlier accused the aid agencies of breaking the law and said the government would tackle any attack on stability. The ICC has no powers of arrest and relies on national police forces to hand suspects over.

"We will deal responsibly and decisively with anybody who tries to target the stability and security of the country," Bashir told a meeting of top politicians on Thursday.

"We have expelled 10 foreign organisations ... after monitoring activities that act in contradiction to all regulation and laws," he said.

The international medical aid agency Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said warned the withdrawals would intensify the country's humanitarian crisis.

"This withdrawal will have terrible consequences for the 400,000 people, including many refugees, for whom MSF France and Netherlands are the only source of medical care," a spokesman warned.

Hassabo Mohamed Abd el-Rahman, head of the government's Humanitarian Aid Commission, said some groups had "passed evidence to the ICC" and made false reports of genocide and rape.

State of fear

Darfur activist Hussein Abu Sharati, who says he represents residents of 158 displacement camps, said most people there were overjoyed by the ICC's decision, but were too scared to show it.

Other camp residents said most displaced Darfuris were staying in their shelters to avoid confronting security forces.

"Inside people are happy," said a resident of Abu Shouk displacement camp in north Darfur, who asked not to be named. "But everyone is keeping quiet. Nobody goes outside. The market is closed."

UN officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the expulsions would have a devastating impact on Darfuris, adding that Sudanese security had already started taking computers and other assets from the agencies' offices in Khartoum and Darfur.

Embassies have been on high alert in the build-up to the court's decision, fearing attacks, although Sudanese authorities have promised to protect diplomatic premises.

Britain, the United States and France have been repeatedly accused by Sudanese government officials of supporting the ICC. Several rocks were thrown at the British embassy after a protest against the ICC decision on Wednesday.
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Sudan orders aid agencies to leave
From UPI Thursday 05 March 2009 - excerpt:
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is "concerned" about the reported expulsions, a spokeswoman said.

"He notes that this represents a serious setback to lifesaving operations in Darfur, and urges the government of Sudan to act urgently to restore these (non-government organizations) to their full operational status," U.N. spokeswoman Michelle Montas said.

Sudanese officials have insisted on accompanying some NGO employees into their offices, taking lists of assets and staff, she said.

Montas said the affected agencies are "the main providers of life-saving humanitarian services, such as water, food, health and sanitation."
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Profile: Omar Al Bashir

From Asharq Al-Awsat Thursday 05 March 2009: Profile: Omar Al Bashir

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