Friday, February 13, 2009

Sudan says ICC rumours are aimed to spoil Darfur peace talks in Doha

Why is the ICC grinding a rumour mill in the run up to, and during, the Darfur peace talks in Doha? And, more to the point, why is the ICC leaking rumours to the New York Times and Sudan Tribune? I'd like to think that maybe the aim is to flush out what the insurgents are thinking, to get a measure of their reactions and single mindedness on the removal of Sudan's President Al-Bashir at any cost.

Over the past four years or so, groups of shadowy insurgents in South Sudan, Darfur and Chad have spun the media and worked hard at discrediting African Union peacekeepers in order to get the UN onside. Now that they have the UN in Darfur, they may view the UN, USA and ICC as being on their side. Some days, I wonder if I am the only person who thinks that the USA, UN and ICC appear, perhaps unwittingly, to be acting like puppets of the forces behind the insurgency. For all we know of those dark forces, the USA, UN and ICC might find themselves playing right into the hands of Al-Qaeda who (the archives of Sudan Watch show) are entrenched in Khartoum. Where's France and Russia in amongst all of this I ask myself.

America's Eric Reeves and the New York Times and its columnist Nicholas Kristof have a lot to answer for. They and the insurgents (Sudan Tribune and savedarfurcrowd included) have made clear in their writings that they want Sudan's president removed. Why should they want the Darfur peace talks to succeed when any progress on the peace front might encourage more members of the UN Security Council to vote for any arrest warrant against Sudan's president to be suspended.

Meanwhile, the terrorists win while playing their deadly waiting game that could go on for many years. None of them seem to really care about how it is affecting the lives of millions of young children growing up in Sudan and Chad. Humanitarians and freedom fighters, my foot. Ambitious, self serving, lowlife parasites, the lot of them. If they truly cared about the children of Sudan and Chad they would have pushed with one voice for peace talks to succeed, long ago.

These days, I imagine that they are all part of the same group and strategy stemming from the civil war days in Southern Sudan in which two million Sudanese people perished. Somewhere amongst all of this is the Ugandan terrorist group Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) that's managed to be on the rampage for more than 20 years. The LRA is a well-ordered fighting force, whose senior officers have been trained by Sudan, Iran and Iraq. Credit where it is due, America has done much to champion the cause of Southern Sudan and is even helping Uganda militarily against the LRA.
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Sudan dismisses Beshir ICC charge as 'rumours'
February 13, 2009 KHARTOUM (AFP):
Sudan has dismissed as "rumours" reports that its president, Omar al-Beshir, would become the first sitting head of state to be indicted by the International Criminal Court in connection with alleged war crimes in Darfur.

The ICC had been expected to make a decision on issuing an arrest warrant as early as this month after chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo in July accused Beshir of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur.

But after The New York Times reported Wednesday that ICC judges in The Hague had decided to issue an arrest warrant for Beshir, a spokesman for the court retorted Thursday: "At this moment, there is no arrest warrant."

"When we have something to announce, we will announce it. For now, there is nothing to announce," ICC spokeswoman Laurence Blairon told AFP.

"No decision has yet been taken by the judges," the ICC later said in a statement.

"The rumours are aimed to spoil the Doha talks; that is why we don't consider them," Sudanese foreign ministry official Mutrif Siddiq told AFP, referring to Qatari-hosted talks between a Darfur rebel group and the Khartoum government.

In Doha, the head of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), the most active rebel group in Darfur, called on Beshir to give himself up.

"I advise Beshir to turn himself in, voluntarily," Khalil Ibrahim said, adding that he would welcome any arrest warrant for the Sudanese president.

"If Beshir does not turn himself in, no doubt, we will arrest him and hand him over to the international court," Ibrahim said.
Ibrahim, whose JEM last year launched an unprecedented but unsuccessful attack on Khartoum, said that a warrant would "not affect the peace process, neither in Darfur nor in Sudan, nor will it affect Sudan's stability."

Sudan has been seeking to garner international support to fight the accusations, with the Arab League and the African Union both saying formal ICC charges will not help the situation in Darfur.

Khartoum has also in recent weeks hosted senior officials from China and Russia, both of which have veto rights as permanent members of the UN Security Council which has the power to defer a Beshir prosecution for one year, renewable.

Thursday, the UN Security Council held an informal session with Arab League and African Union representatives who made a new pitch for a one-year deferral by the 15-member council of the ICC case against Beshir, under Article 16 of the Rome statute that created the court in 2002.

AU envoy Ramdane Lamamra pushed for the 12-month deferral, arguing that this would not undermine justice in Darfur, Japan's UN Ambassador Yukio Takasu, the council chair this month, told reporters.

Several diplomats said after the session that supporters of such an option did not have have the nine votes within the council necessary for adoption of a deferral resolution.

They said only six council members: Burkina Faso, China, Libya, Russia, Uganda and Vietnam backed a deferral.

Sudanese officials, including Beshir, have always insisted they will not cooperate with the ICC, saying that any allegations of crimes in Darfur would be dealt with in Sudanese courts.

"It's clear Sudan is not a party of the ICC. Whatever the ICC does it is not affecting us," Siddiq said, slamming the charges as "politically motivated."

UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday urged Khartoum to act "very responsibly" if an arrest warrant is issued for Beshir.

The UN chief said that whatever decision the ICC reaches, "it will be very important for President Beshir and the Sudanese government to react very responsibly and ensure the safety and security" of UN peacekeepers in Darfur and protect the human rights of the population.
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From Los Angeles Chronicle
Enough Project Report - ICC Warrant for Bashir
Newswire Services February 12, 2009
A new report by the Enough Project at the Center for American Progress explores the impact of an arrest warrant for Sudan's President on the ruling party, Darfuri rebel groups, the existing north-south peace agreement, and the international community. The decision by the Pre-Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court, or ICC, to issue an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is both welcome and unsurprising given the long pattern of profound abuses in Sudan directed from the highest echelons of government.

The response of key actors in Sudan to the ICC´s move against Bashir is still obviously a work in progress, but the choices made in the coming weeks by Bashir's National Congress, or NCP, the main rebel groups in Darfur, and the Sudan People´s Liberation Movement, will have profound impact on the country's future. Understanding the calculations of these actors is fundamental to leveraging the arrest warrant into progress toward peace.

Enough Project Executive Director John Norris commented, "As we have learned from earlier indictments of Liberian President Charles Taylor and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, these charges can be a catalyst for peace — if the international community stands resolutely behind efforts to promote accountability while simultaneously pursuing a strategic approach to a peace process. The situation in Sudan is no different." Senior officials within Bashir's NCP are deeply concerned about the possibility of further charges by the ICC, and a growing fissure between Bashir´s loyalists and potentially more pragmatic elements of the NCP could lead to the president´s removal.

The international community must now fashion a firm and coordinated peace strategy conditioned on actions rather than words and policies rather than personalities. What should be clear to the international community, including the United States, is that President Bashir should be delivered to the court to face a fair trial on the charges against him. Furthermore, the international community needs to use multilateral diplomacy, well targeted pressures, and judicious incentives to bring both the NCP and Darfur's rebel groups to the negotiating table, while making a major effort to revitalize the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, or CPA, as part of a broader and more strategic peace effort for all of Sudan.

Enough Project Co-chair John Prendergast observed, "The arrest warrant for President Bashir is the potential game-changer that the Sudanese people have been waiting for, in order to shake up the deadly status quo that has led to millions of deaths in Darfur and Southern Sudan. The warrant offers the Obama administration a chance to lead multilateral efforts to bring about a solution to Sudan´s decades-long cycle of warfare. Working publicly for a peace deal for Darfur and privately for Bashir's resignation will provide the necessary international leadership that has been lacking for some time."
Note, I have highlighted text in red for future reference.
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From Christian Science Monitor
Has the ICC decided to issue an arrest warrant for Sudan’s Bashir?
By Robert Marquand, Staff writer:
PARIS – With an arrest warrant for Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir possibly days away, according to the New York Times, the UN Security Council faces a moment of truth: Will it allow the International Criminal Court (ICC) to move forward in the prosecution of the alleged “mastermind” of what ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo and the US government have both called a “genocide” in Darfur?

Or, will Council members postpone the Bashir case for another 12 months on grounds that Mr. Bashir could inflict terrible revenge on international aid workers, not to mention his own people?

The Security Council, under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, can decide it is “in the best interest” for the ICC to defer the prosecution of Bashir to preserve stability and peace, which might include a fragile pact in Sudan between north and south.

“The council can come in at any time and defer,” says Mark Ellis of the International Bar Association in London, “but they would have to get all five members to agree, and I’m not sure they can.”

Whether or not judges at the ICC have fully signed off on an arrest warrant for Bashir is unclear. The New York Times published a story Thursday stating that a warrant had been issued. ICC officials insist they have not.

The Times report states flatly that “Judges at the [ICC] decided to issue an arrest warrant for [Bashir], brushing aside requests to allow more time for peace negotiations in the conflict-riddled Darfur region.”

The account prompted a storm of back and forths between the court, Sudan, the media, and the UN – whose chief, Ban Ki Moon, had a shouting match on Feb. 8 with Bashir, according to the Times. The purported arrest warrant isn’t the only issue dogging the ICC in recent days. As the Monitor is reporting today, Mr. Moreno-Ocampo is causing a stir in Israel by suggesting he may investigate alleged war crimes in Gaza.

The Palestinian Authority continues to press the court to do so – with some 200 requests. Yet such an act is widely seen as dubious in legal circles. Neither Israel nor the Gaza entity is a signatory to the ICC. To investigate Israel for the Gaza attacks, the ICC would have to recognize Gaza as a state; moreover, both the prosecutor and the court would have to agree that it has jurisdiction in Gaza by such recognition.

Regarding the Bashir case, Monitor sources and news reports suggest it is virtually certain that the three pre-trial judges at the ICC agree there is enough evidence to try Bashir on war crimes and crimes against humanity. But there may be a disagreement on the fraught charge of genocide.

Proving “genocide” in a court of law is a high hurdle, requiring proof of “specific intent.” This may in fact represent a technical reason why the ICC now claims that no arrest indictments are ready.

Le Monde correspondent Philippe Bolopion, at the UN, citing diplomats there, says the judges “upheld the first two charges but didn’t reach an agreement on the genocide indictment, more complex to prove.” Several sources told Mr. Bolopion that “the ICC judges have not officially made their decision and haven’t transmitted it to the UN yet. They haven’t even mentioned the date in which the announcement will be made public. Several sources inside the ICC confirm that the arrest warrant will be issued in the next days, presumably before the end of the month.

Ironically, perhaps, it was the UN Security Council that approved a Darfur war crimes investigation in Sudan; but members may not have suspected the ICC would go so far as to indict a sitting president. France has suggested, according to German press sources [DPA], that “the ICC should withhold the arrest warrant if al-Bashir would surrender two senior Sudanese officials charged with the killings in Darfur.”

Many other press reports in the past week have cited quotes from the Sudanese ambassador to the UN saying that the ICC arrest warrants were “expected.”

As the Monitor reported recently, the ICC began its first case at the end of January with the trail of Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga, charged with recruiting 30,000 child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The idea for the court emerged after the relative success of war crimes tribunals in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, with experts hoping that stronger concepts of justice would serve as a soft-power deterrent against heinous acts and genocide.

The court has since moved in fits and starts. Moreno-Ocampo made a splash last summer by indicting Bashir, but most of the ICC’s focus so far is on Congo, where little-noticed wars have claimed some 5.5 million lives. Four Congolese alleged warlords are now at The Hague; a joint trial of Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo is expected in several months.

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