SUDAN WATCH: UN's Ban says still time to defer ICC Bashir case

Thursday, March 12, 2009

UN's Ban says still time to defer ICC Bashir case

Reuters report by Patrick Worsnip 12 March 2009:
UN's Ban says still time to defer ICC Bashir case
UNITED NATIONS, March 12 (Reuters) - U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday Sudan still had time to seek deferral of an international warcrimes indictment of its president, but should first act itself against human rights abuses in Darfur.

"You cannot say that it's too late," the U.N. secretary-general told a monthly news conference. "Even now I think that (the Sudanese) ... can take and they should take necessary measures."

The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant on March 4 for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the conflict-torn region of Darfur in western Sudan.

But under Article 16 of the court's statute, the U.N. Security Council can delay any proceedings for a renewable period of one year. African and Arab states, as well as Security Council members China and Russia, are pressing for such a deferral, saying peace prospects in Sudan will otherwise be damaged.

Ban said that before the arrest warrant was issued he had urged Bashir to take credible "domestic judiciary measures" to implement a 2005 Security Council resolution referring the Darfur issue to the ICC.

"That's the only way which can be regarded as meeting the requirement of Article 16," he said.

Ban did not elaborate but appeared to be suggesting that Khartoum should take legal action against two other Sudanese men, Ahmed Haroun and Ali Kushayb, indicted by the ICC in 2007 over Darfur. Sudan has not so far prosecuted them.


Although some Western states are uneasy over the ICC indictment of Bashir, who has responded by expelling 13 aid organizations from Sudan, the United States, Britain and France have said they see no case for a deferral at the moment. Those three western countries, with their veto power in the Security Council, could quash any move to invoke Article 16.

Western officials have hinted, however, they might rethink their stance against a deferral if Bashir were to prosecute Haroun and Kushayb, call off military actions in Darfur and improve conditions for U.N. and African Union peacekeepers in Sudan.

Article 16 does not spell out any conditions under which ICC proceedings can be delayed, leaving the decision to the Security Council.

U.N. officials say up to 300,000 people have been killed in Darfur, a mainly desert region, while Khartoum says 10,000 have died. The conflict flared when mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms against the government in 2003.

Sudan, which is not a party to the ICC statute, said on Tuesday it was looking at how to get the arrest warrant against Bashir suspended or quashed.

Foreign ministry spokesman Ali Al-Sadig said officials were considering referring the warrant to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and asking allies to push for a postponement of the case in the U.N. Security Council.

The ICJ is a separate institution from the ICC, and unlike the ICC is a U.N. body. One of its main jobs is to settle legal disputes given to it by United Nations member states.

"We are not going to campaign for an 'Article 16'," Sadig said. "But if other people campaign on our behalf, that would be a different thing." (Editing by Frances Kerry)


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