July 13, 2008 (WASHINGTON) – A number of Darfur rebel groups as well as refugee camps called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to go forward with its plans to name new suspects of war crimes.
- Refugees who fled the conflict in Sudan’s western Darfur region wait outside an aid distribution building at Djabal camp near Gos Beida in eastern Chad June 12, 2008 (Reuters)
The ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo will hold a press conference tomorrow to present his new case on Darfur crimes. It is widely expected that he will request an arrest warrant against Sudanese president Omar Hassan Al-Bashir.
It was reported that China and Russia are trying to invoke Article 16 of the Rome Statue, which forms the basis of the ICC, to suspend any indictment of Al-Bashir.
Article 16 of the Rome Statue states that “no investigation or prosecution may be commenced or proceeded with under this Statute for a period of 12 months after the Security Council, in a resolution adopted under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, has requested the Court to that effect; that request may be renewed by the Council under the same conditions”.
The UN and world diplomats fear reprisal by Khartoum against peacekeepers and aid organizations providing food to millions of refuges in the war ravaged region.
Sudan’s U.N. ambassador Abdel-Mahmood Mohamed told reporters that “all options are on the table” if Sudan president is indeed indicted.
“The limit is the sky” he responded to a question at the UN headquarters about measures Khartoum could take.
Mohamed met with the UN Secretary General on Friday urging him to step in and prevent the ICC prosecution.
“We hold you responsible if our President is indicted” the Sudanese envoy told the UN chief, the Inner City Press website reported.
But Darfur rebel groups cautioned against attempts to freeze arrest warrants against Sudan president or any other senior official.
“The international community should stand behind the ICC prosecutor in bringing justice to our people” Khalil Ibrahim leader of Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) told Sudan Tribune today by satellite phone from Darfur.
“There is no reason to be scared from any retaliation by Al-Bashir. He is too weak to do anything and we exposed this in our May 10th attack” Ibrahim said.
Another rebel leader said that if the UN Security Council (UNSC) adopts a resolution based on Article 16 it will “demonstrate moral and political irresponsibility”.
“The UN Security Council (UNSC) should uphold its own resolutions. For how long will Sudan be allowed to renege on the UNSC resolutions?” Abdel-Wahid Al-Nur leader of Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) told Sudan Tribune from Washington where he is on a visit.
“The ICC is the only hope for the people of Darfur. It is the only venue that is making any progress. I urge the UNSC not to mix justice and politics. I ask them to postpone the killings in Darfur and not postpone justice” he said.
The JEM leader vowed to protect the UN-AU hybrid forces and aid workers in Darfur.
“We are committed to protecting the peacekeepers and aid organizations. We will do everything in our power to ensure their safety. They are here to help Darfuris” he said.
Ibrahim also warned that JEM will pursue other options if Sudan head of state is allowed to evade a possible arrest warrant.
“Al-Bashir said all options are open if they charge him with war crimes. Our message is that our options are open too should he not comply with ICC decisions. Our arm is far reaching and he knows it” the JEM chief said.
Hussein Abu-Sharati, the spokesperson of Darfur displaced and refugees at the Kalma camp in South Darfur, with some 90,000 residents, said that “there is not a single dissenting voice among displaced when it comes to supporting bringing Sudanese officials before the ICC”.
Al-Nur said he received calls from Darfur refugees in Sudan and Chad voicing support to the ICC.
“I got calls from six IDP camps in Chad and eleven inside Sudan. They urged me to convey their messages. They said that someone who commits genocide should be brought to justice. That is the only way to stop their killings” the SLM chief said.
The leader of a Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) faction of Ahmed Abdel-Shafi said that the Sudanese president “bears responsibility for the crimes in his capacity as commander in chief”.
“The Sudanese people and marginalized population will be more than happy to see Al-Bashir prosecuted” he added.
The Sudanese government has vowed not to deal with the ICC or hand over any of its citizens to The Hague.
The UNSC resolution 1593, which in March 2005 referred the situation in Darfur to the ICC’s prosecutor, requires Sudan to cooperate fully with ICC investigations.
The judges of the ICC issued their first arrest warrants for suspects accused of war crimes in Sudan’s Darfur region a year ago.
The warrants were issued for Ahmed Haroun, state minister for humanitarian affairs, and militia commander Ali Mohamed Ali Abdel-Rahman, also know as Ali Kushayb. Sudan has so far rejected handing over the two suspects.
Sudan has not ratified the Rome Statue, but under the Rome Statue the UNSC can refer situations in non-State parties to the world court if it deems that it is a threat to international peace and security.