Sudan rejects Arab League’s proposal over Bashir warrant

What you need to know:

  • The proposals, which included conducting internal trials for Darfur war crimes suspects rejected
  • Sudanese official accused the ICC of targeting third world countries only.
  • President al-Bashir, on first trip abroad since ICC moved to indict him, denied his forces had committed genocide
  • African and Arab states are pushing for the suspension of moves by ICC

KHARTOUM, Wednesday - The Sudanese government for the first time unveiled disagreements with the Arab League on a plan it formulated to counter a move by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to indict Sudan’s president Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

In mid-July, the ICC’s prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo announced that he will seek an arrest warrant against Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir for war crimes in Darfur.

Following the move, Sudan has been looking into ways that would allow it to avoid confrontation with the international community over the ICC.

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa carried a number of proposals to President al-Bashir last month which included conducting internal trials for Darfur war crimes suspects. These proposals were rejected.

Sudanese presidential adviser Mustafa Ismail was quoted by the daily Al-Hayat newspaper as telling reporters in Cairo after meeting with Mr Moussa “that there are some parts of the plan that need more discussions”.

Mr Ismail also insisted that the Sudanese judiciary is capable of looking into the Darfur war crimes and noted the recent appointment of a special prosecutor for Darfur by Sudan’s justice minister.

The Sudanese official also accused the ICC of targeting third world countries only.

“We did not see that the court looked into what superpowers did in Iraq, Palestine or Afghanistan” he said.

Mr Ismail reiterated his country’s refusal to hand over any Sudanese citizens abroad and stressed that local investigations into Darfur crimes “will not exclude the president, ministers or janitors”.

However Sudan’s presidential adviser refused to say what will be the next steps if an arrest warrant for al-Bashir is issued by the ICC.

Sudan’s appointment of a special prosecutor was seen as concession that would provide leverage to the Arab League and African Union (AU) when requesting a resolution from the UN Security Council (UNSC) deferring Al-Bashir’s indictment under Article 16 of the ICC Statute.

The Arab League and the African Union already have asked the Security Council to suspend the case for 12 months, something that only the UN body can do under the ICC statue.

Neo-colonialist agenda

Yesterday, President al-Bashir, on his first trip abroad since the ICC moved to indict him for war crimes, denied that his forces had committed genocide in Darfur, adds Reuters. President Bashir, who calls the court’s move part of a neo-colonialist agenda to protect the interests of developed countries, said that his government forces were not responsible for crimes in Darfur.

“We are not committing genocide in Darfur,” President Bashir told Turkish President Abdullah Gul during a meeting in Istanbul, according to a Turkish official close to the talks.

“We are saddened by the events there,” President Bashir was quoted as saying.

The two men, who met for 30 minutes in an Ottoman-era palace by the Bosphorus Strait on the sidelines of a Turkey-Africa economic summit, did not discuss the ICC or the case against Bashir.

Nato member Turkey has not ratified the treaty forming the ICC but is under pressure to become a member as part of negotiations to join the European Union.

ICC judges could take weeks or months to issue a warrant, but have never failed to issue one after a prosecutor has requested it. Sudan has warned the United Nations of “serious consequences” for its staff and facilities if an arrest warrant is issued, a UN envoy told the Security Council on Monday.

Mr Abdelmahmood Abdelhaleem, permanent Sudanese representative to the UN, echoed Bashir’s defiance in comments to reporters.

“The president can go anywhere and is not afraid of anything,” he said. “Our president will never be arrested as long we are alive. As long as we are living nothing will happen to our president.”

African and Arab states are pushing for the suspension of moves by the court to indict Bashir and say they could hamper efforts to bring peace to Darfur.

International experts estimate 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been driven from their homes in Darfur since mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms in early 2003 accusing the central government in Khartoum of neglect.

US-based Human Rights Watch has called on Turkey to express its support for the court during Bashir’s visit.

Mr Gul, who asked Mr Bashir to give priority to Turkish investors in Sudanese oil fields, said they had talked about Darfur and the suffering there. “We have to pay attention to human rights. The blood and the tears there must stop. Whatever happens the pain of the people there has to be put to an end,” Gul told a news conference.

The summit in Istanbul was attended by senior political figures from some 40 African countries, with which Turkey wants to build ties to tap into the continent’s vast energy resources. Turkey, which has signed liquefied gas agreements with Algeria, is trying to boost investment in and trade with sub-Saharan Africa, following similar moves by emerging powerhouses China and India.

Meanwhile, Lawyers for 38 people condemned to death for taking part in a shock Darfur rebel attack on Khartoum said today they had failed in their bid to have the sentences overturned.

A spokesman for the defence team said judges on Sudan’s constitutional court narrowly voted to reject their arguments that the controversial special courts that sentenced the defendants were unconstitutional and violated a series of laws.

More than 200 people were killed and hundreds injured when Darfur rebels from the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) launched an unprecedented attack on the Khartoum suburb of Omdurman in May.

The attackers drove across hundreds of miles of desert and scrubland to reach the capital and were only repelled at a bridge just a few kilometres away from the presidential palace.

Khartoum set up three anti-terror courts to try people suspected of taking part in the assault or of supporting it.

Human rights groups accused the Sudanese government of making hundreds of arbitrary arrests and torturing suspects after the attack, charges dismissed by government officials.

Amin Mekki, coordinator for the defence team, told Reuters he was “obviously disappointed” that four out of the seven judges on the constitutional court had voted to reject their challenge against the special courts on Tuesday. (Suna and Agencies)