Sat, Jul 19, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Sudan rules out deal with ICC

LOOMING CRISIS International Criminal Court judges are expected to decide in the fall whether to issue a warrant for the arrest of the Sudanese president

AGENCIES , KHARTOUM AND DAKAR

Khartoum on Thursday rejected a deal with the International Criminal Court (ICC) to hand over two indicted officials in exchange for dropping the court’s arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo however ruled out dropping his call for a warrant for Bashir on suspicion of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, a move that some powers fear could derail peace efforts there.

“There will be no direct cooperation with the International Criminal Court and no sending any Sudanese citizens to The Hague,” Sudanese presidential adviser Mustafa Osman Ismail told a forum on Thursday.

The decision to refer Darfur to the ICC came from the UN Security Council so any proposal to resolve the crisis should also come from there, he said.

ICC judges are expected to decide in October or November whether to issue a warrant for Bashir’s arrest.

Moreno-Ocampo asked the ICC for the warrant, accusing Bashir of a campaign of genocide in which 35,000 people were killed outright, at least 100,000 died a “slow death” and 2.5 million were forced to flee their homes in Sudan’s Darfur region.

China, South Africa and others have expressed concern that an indictment of Bashir could damage the stalled peace process aimed at ending the five-year-old conflict in Darfur.

Moreno-Ocampo, in his first public comments since asking for Bashir’s arrest, said this was not a factor for him.

“I am the prosecutor and I have to do my judicial part of the work for the court,” he told reporters. “I kept my independence and I cannot be a political factor,” he said when asked whether arresting Bashir would harm peace negotiations.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon offered a different view, saying the ICC also must consider ramifications of its work.

“We must seek to strike the correct balance between the duty of justice and the pursuit of peace,” he said.

Western diplomats in New York have said a deal could be struck to drop or suspend the warrant for Bashir if he agreed to hand over Humanitarian Affairs State Minister Ahmed Haroun and militia leader Ali Kushayb, indicted by the ICC last year.

Sudan has asked Russia, China and members of the Arab League and the African Union (AU) to help it pursue a Security Council resolution suspending a warrant for Bashir for 12 months.

Diplomats in New York say the Arab League and the AU’s Peace and Security Council are expected to call on the Security Council soon to block any ICC moves in the interests of bringing peace to Darfur.

Sudan is likely to get both Arab and African support at the UN. AU officials have expressed concern that the ICC’s first four cases have all focused on Africa.

Senegal’s president said on Thursday that US President George W. Bush had told African leaders at one point that the US might send troops to Darfur if they did not act to halt what he saw as genocide there.

“Myself and other African colleagues tried to dissuade him from this and convince him to leave us to try to sort out this problem among us Africans,” President Abdoulaye Wade said in a statement issued in Dakar on Moreno-Ocampo’s request for an arrest warrant for Bashir.

Meanwhile Bashir has agreed to resume diplomatic ties with Chad, one month after severing them following an unprecedented rebel attack near the Sudanese capital, officials said yesterday.

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