Uproar in Sudan over Bashir war crimes warrant
Source: The Earth Times 4 March 2009
Expert: Convincing evidence needed to charge al-Bashir with genocide
Amsterdam - The International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague on Wednesday, did not include a count of genocide against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for alleged atrocities in Darfur as had been widely expected. The ICC listed only five counts of crimes against humanity and two of war crimes, but left the door open for amendments to the charge sheet to include genocide if more evidence is gathered in the case against him.- - -
Speaking after the ICC announcement in The Hague on Wednesday, a Dutch expert on Sudan and the United Nations said it was never going to be easy to bring a charge of genocide against al-Bashir.
Genocide is the most serious charge in international law, requiring convincing and unequivocal evidence, said Dick Leurdijk of Clingendael Institute for International Relations and Diplomacy in The Hague.
"Apparently the evidence ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo presented the court was insufficient to substantiate this allegation," Leurdijk said.
"Former US secretary of state Colin Powell was the first to refer to a "genocide" in Darfur in September 2004," he added.
"But the European Union and the United Nations always consistently refrained from using that term. They may have been proven right by the court today," Leurdijk said.
However, he did not exclude the possibility that the charges against al-Bashir could actually be amended at a later stage.
Leurdijk said it was "too bad" that Moreno-Ocampo did not explain why Sudan would be obliged under international law to arrest al- Bashir even on its own territory.
"After all, Sudan has not recognized the authority of the International Criminal Court," he noted said.
"The ICC was established through political negotiations, not on the basis of a UN Security Council resolution like the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia," he said.
Photo: Demonstrators campaigned for the indictment of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan outside the Sudanese embassy in London on Wednesday. Source: NTY article by MARLISE SIMONS March 4, 2009 - Court Issues Warrant for Arrest of Sudan President - excerpt:
Reaction from Sudan, which has vowed to defy the court, was swift. “We strongly condemn this criminal move,” said Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem, the Sudanese ambassador to the United Nations. “It amounts to an attempt at regime change. We are not going to be bound by it, we are not going to respect it.”Ambassador Abdalhaleem also said he was not worried about the president being arrested if he traveled to any friendly country, since many African and Arab states have expressed support for him.
Photo: A woman holds a poster of Sudan's president Omar al-Bashir at a demonstration in Khartoum against the international criminal court. Photograph: Zohra Bensemra/Reuters. Source: Guardian UK article by Xan Rice in Nairobi March 4, 2009 - Uproar in Sudan over Bashir war crimes warrant - Protests erupt and government attacks 'white man's court' after president is charged with Darfur war crimes - excerpt:
The government's initial reaction to the warrant announcement was dismissive. Speaking in Cairo, Sudan's justice minister, Abdel Basit Sabdarat, said: "We will not deal with this court. It has no jurisdiction, it is a political decision."
Mustafa Osman Ismail, an adviser to Bashir, accused the west of seeking to undermine the country's stability. "The court is only one mechanism of neo-colonialist policy used by the west against free and independent countries."
The ministry of information said in a statement: "There will be no recognition of or dealing with the white man's court, which has no mandate in Sudan or against any of its people."
"Sudan's sovereignty and independence is a red line that will be defended,"said the statement, which was carried by the Sudan Media Centre.
But the two main rebel movements in Darfur hailed the arrest warrant. Abdel Wahid Mohammed Nur, the leader of the Sudan Liberation Movement, described it as "a great victory for the victims of Darfur and Sudan". The Justice and Equality Movement said Bashir should appear before the court "to plead his innocence, if he were indeed innocent".
On the ground in Darfur and Chad, people displaced by the conflict gathered around radios and cheered when the ICC decision was announced. By then, however, the first ramifications of the warrant were being felt.
The aid organisation Médecins sans Frontières said it had pulled its entire expatriate staff out of Darfur on orders from the government. UN officials said hundreds of government troops paraded in El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state, in an apparent show of strength.
There are concerns that local opposition groups and foreigners may be harassed or even attacked in the coming days and weeks.
Egypt, which hosted a visit from Bashir last week, said it was "greatly disturbed" by the ICC decision and called for an emergency meeting of the UN security council to defer the arrest warrant. Russia also strongly criticised the warrant.
Mikhail Margelov, Russia's special envoy to Sudan, said: "The untimely fulfilment of the ICC decision to arrest the president of Sudan will create a dangerous precedent in the system of international relations and could negatively affect the situation both inside Sudan and the overall situation in the region."
Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, described the warrant as unjust and political.
The US, which has described the Darfur conflict as genocide, called for restraint from all parties in Sudan, including the government.
"Further violence against civilian Sudanese or foreign interests must be avoided and will not be tolerated," said Robert Wood, the state department spokesman.
"The United States believes that those who have committed atrocities should be brought to justice as the ICC process continues."
France expressed its support for the court and urged Sudan to "fully co-operate" and to continue with peace negotiations to end the conflict.