Saturday, September 20, 2008

TRANSCRIPT OF BLIP.TV VIDEO: Lord Malloch-Brown in discussion at the Frontline Club

Warm thanks to Graham Holliday (click here for website) at the Frontline Club for leaving a comment at Sudan Watch post "France says will block any UN resolution seeking to suspend ICC indictment of Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir".

The comment contains a link to a video on featuring Lord Malloch-Brown, UK Minister for Asia, Africa and the Middle East, in discussion with Richard Beeston, Foreign Editor of The Times of the Frontline Club in London.

Last night, I viewed the whole video and transcribed the part re Darfur, Sudan (towards end of video) copy here below.

To view the video at, click into

Here is the transcript:

Richard Beeston: I'm aware that we are slightly running out of time but I had an email from a gentleman who couldn't make it tonight but wanted his question asked anyway, he is called Peter Mozinsky perhaps he is watching this on the Internet:

"I would like to ask Lord Malloch-Brown if he sincerely believes that it is a good idea for the UK to lobby against the ICC's, that's the International Criminal Court's, indictment of Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir"

Lord Malloch-Brown: Well I am very glad to get the question because then I can answer that I think it's a very bad idea. There was a rather inaccurate press story about this last weekend, which actually didn't get our position right at all on this. I mean, for those who are not familiar with the background, you know, the Security Council turned over to the ICC for further investigation, a sealed list and dossier of some 50 Sudanese names who a Security Council investigation had felt were involved in the human rights abuses in Darfur. That list, the names are not really known, it was seen by Kofi Annan as Secretary General, he didn't even show it to me, I'm now relieved he didn't, I was rather curious at the time.

But it's turned over, and you know there isn't a Sudanese official who doesn't fear that his name is on that list. And you know it began, the ICC, the International Criminal Court, having looked at this under instruction or request from the Security Council indicted two relatively low level people, the Sudanese government responded by promoting one of them to a Cabinet level job as Minister for Humanitarian Affairs. And you know international community deeply pissed off but not quite sure what to do about it because you know a little bit hostage to Sudan in terms of wanting to see UNAMID the peacekeeping force deployed, wanting to see political negotiations between the government.

ICC more and more aggravated by this by no action on the arrest of these two individuals. So the prosecutor just in the summer announced that he was now recommending to the judges of the court that they issue an indictment against President Bashir the head of the country, I mean the Head of State.

Now this has, you know, put the fox in the chicken coop, big time, because you know, it's, I mean it's obviously got the Sudanese extremely alarmed that, you know, a serving head of state might find that were he to travel to the UN for an international meeting he might kind of get arrested at JFK under an international arrest warrant or, you know, and in fact if you look at the Sudanese blogs and other information sources you see that they are even worried the peacekeepers might suddenly show up in Khartoum and arrest him were he to be indicted which is the next step of this process.

So it has created, you know, in Sudan a lot of fears that it might stop cooperation with the peacekeepers, it might stop progress towards elections and towards a political settlement of Darfur.

It has also, you know actually, frankly, united a lot of African moderates who for example were on our side on Zimbabwe, are not on our side on this ICC indictment issue and feel that this is a real intrusion of western institutions into Africa's affairs where you can start indicting African leaders while in office, who's next they think, and it's not that they somehow think that Bashir is not guilty of things but they could imagine circumstances where, you know, some smooth well spoken opposition leader in their own country fooled westerners into thinking that they were a human rights abuser, right or wrong, and suddenly there was an indictment against them.

I mean, we have the example at the moment of the Rwandans who have not got an ICC indictment against them but have European arrest warrants issued against various senior members of the current government who we happen to think are not guilty of the crimes for which these warrants have been arrested but whose ability to travel, and, you know, is now limited, so there's a huge head of steam building in Africa against this sort of as they see it, and also in the Arab League, against a kind of western justice run riot.

So you might argue, well given all that, then why argue in favour of stopping it. Well we're not because you know really for two sets of reasons. One we are extremely wary of doing anything to interfere with the independence of the ICC, we look at it as one of the most important international innovations of recent years, the idea that there is an international court system which holds the strong to account for what they do after they leave the position of absolute power which has allowed them to abuse their citizens and ending impunity of that kind is for us a major progressive goal of of policy.

But the second reason is more practical than that and I've said this to the Sudanese with whom I've tried to retain keep on an intense diplomatic conversation throughout all the difficulties we encounter there, which is: look, if you showed a willingness to really engage to deal with these other cases of these two people who have been indicted and are still enjoying senior government jobs, if you really now turned around and helped get UNAMID fully deployed and if you also engaged in a no holds barred effort with the rebel groups to do a peace agreement then you would face a completely different environment in the security council where, you know, we might say, well you've made so much progress, we might delay this security council thing, because all the security council can do it can't cancel indictments it can only postpone them on the grounds that, you know, at a particular point in time, they might put a spoke in the wheel in a way that stops the broader progress.

But what we are not going to do, and having said that to the Sudanese they said, well what would we have to do to kind of get you to think that way, I said I'm, we're not horse trading there's no bargaining here, you know, there are examples of leaders who are facing massive international isolation, I think probably from the Sudanese point of view the best analogy is Gaddafi and Libya who did a complete turn around in terms of what he did with the US, UK and the international community on his weapons programme and on a bunch of other things that allowed the whole relationship to change, if the Sudanese could envisage something as bold and as ambitious as that then people would look at this indictment in a different light but you know we cannot sell out the international court or the international justice system for sort of the equivalent of a mess of potage or porridge, I mean we can't do it just for some nice words about how, you know, they will ensure justice is done. There would have to be a fundamental change in how Sudan is addressing these internal issues of justice and politics and peacekeeping and we've not seen that.

Richard Beeston: Well, thank you very much Mark, I think every one will agree its you've been extremely candid with us and riveting tour de force and I'm afraid we've run out of time but thank you very much for coming to us. (applause) end of video

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