International community's main focus is on obtaining future Darfur peace agreement, not seeking justice for past crimes
Britain's Foreign Office has expressed broad support for the ICC and has urged Sudan to co-operate with it – but has offered no public endorsement of Ocampo. The US, not a party to the Rome treaty, is also lukewarm.
Source: The Guardian by Simon Tisdall, 11 June 2009 (via u.tv news):
Bashir slips out of court's grasp
Efforts by the International Criminal Court to secure the arrest of Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir, for alleged war crimes in Darfur have stalled and are unlikely to move forward in the foreseeable future, European diplomats and Sudanese officials say. The stalemate threatens to undermine the credibility of the court and is raising questions about the future of its chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo.
Bashir was indicted in March on five counts of crimes against humanity, including rapes and killings, and on two counts of war crimes relating to events in Darfur since 2003. The UN claims up to 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million have been displaced by continuing fighting between government forces and rebel groups. Khartoum, which puts the death toll at 10,000, does not recognise the court's jurisdiction.
Reporting to the UN security council last week, Moreno-Ocampo repeated previous assertions that the government of Sudan was presiding over the "ongoing extermination of civilians" in Darfur. He urged all state parties to the Rome treaty that created the ICC to support efforts to arrest Bashir and other war crimes indictees such as Ahmad Harun, a Sudanese minister. Non-signatories also had a duty to back the ICC under UN resolutions, he said.
But to the unconcealed delight of Khartoum, the prosecutor's appeals appear to have fallen on deaf ears, with the council agreeing only to "take note" of his report while eschewing concrete action. "Ocampo repeated a lot of lies. He talked about continuing genocide. But nothing is happening at the UN. This thing is being buried," a senior Sudanese official said. By targeting Bashir, the first serving head of state to be indicted by the ICC, Ocampo had fatally over-reached, the official claimed.
Western governments are also privately critical of Ocampo's tactics in charging Bashir rather than less senior figures with more evident, hands-on responsibility for Darfur. "He could have charged the minister of defence or the head of the army first and if they had implicated Bashir, he could have gone after him then. Instead he has gone over the top," said a European diplomat closely involved with Sudan.
Such scepticism is echoed in London, where the Foreign Office has expressed broad support for the ICC and has urged Sudan to co-operate with it – but has offered no public endorsement of Ocampo. The US, not a party to the Rome treaty, is also lukewarm. Speaking of Bashir's indictment during a fence-mending visit to Khartoum in April, John Kerry, chairman of the US Senate's foreign relations committee, said: "Of course, there is no question that it has complicated matters."
In a recent Foreign Affairs magazine article, Andrew Natsios, a former Bush administration Sudan envoy, sharply criticised Ocampo for exaggerating the scale of continuing violence in Darfur and mishandling the Bashir case. "In their zeal to burnish the fledgling court's credentials with such a high-profile case, the ICC's prosecutors have weakened the institution," he said.
The arrest warrant had produced the unintended effect of rallying Sudanese and the African Union and Arab League around Bashir and reducing the incentives for the rebels to make peace, Natsios added. "If the international community persists in imposing idealised standards of justice on Sudan, it will end up inciting violence in the future that would make past atrocities pale by comparison."
Natsios's diatribe and Kerry's visit, when he spoke positively of lifting US sanctions, forms part of the backdrop to a visible warming of relations between Washington and Khartoum since Barack Obama took office – another reason why the ICC case is floundering. Despite campaign pledges to take tough action on Darfur, Obama's new Sudan envoy, Scott Gration, described the country as a "friend" during recent visits to Khartoum.
Sudanese officials are hailing a "new beginning" in bilateral relations. "We can feel the winds of change blowing from the Obama administration. Gration is putting his full weight behind the Doha peace talks [between the government and Darfurian rebel factions]. There is a more positive attitude from the US," a diplomat said. In contrast, Darfur pressure groups have expressed dismay at recent developments, complaining in particular that Obama made only a fleeting reference to Darfur in his Cairo speech.
A recent meeting in Doha of representatives of the UN security council's five permanent members plus the EU made clear that the international community's main focus now was on obtaining a future Darfur peace agreement, not seeking justice for past crimes. And diplomats said even greater emphasis was being placed on how to revive the fragile 2005 north-south comprehensive peace agreement (CPA) ahead of national elections due next year, and a referendum on southern Sudan's mooted secession in 2011.The CPA ended more than 20 years of civil war but recent UN reports say violence in the south is now at a higher level than in Darfur, which the UN has reclassified as a "low intensity conflict". Hoping to resolves CPA-related disputes over oil, territory, and the electoral census, Sudanese national government officials will travel to Washington later this month for a major conference hosted by the Obama administration.
Although the UN security council continues to resist Sudanese and African Union calls for the ICC to suspend or drop the Bashir indictment, it shows no sign of taking any measures to secure his arrest, not least for fear of further destabilising the region and provoking a fatal rupture with the 30 African states that signed the ICC treaty.
Bashir, meanwhile, appears increasingly confident and continues to move freely at home and abroad, having visited Ethiopia, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt and Libya since the international arrest warrant was issued. "It [the ICC warrant] is an action aimed at isolating Sudan and eventually fragmenting and dividing our country," he said in Zimbabwe this week. "But through our own efforts and resources we are going to overcome such designs."