July 23, 2008 (WASHINGTON) — An Arab League official today revealed the plan carried by its Secretary General Amr Moussa to Sudan president Omar Hassan Al-Bashir to deal over the row with the International Criminal Court (ICC).
- Arab League General Secretary Amr Mussa talks to media after his meeting with Sudanese president Omar al-Beshir in the capital Khartoum on July 20, 2008 (AFP)
The ICC’s prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo asked pre-trial judges lon Monday 14 July to issue arrest warrants for Sudanese president Omar Hassan Al-Bashir.
Ocampo filed 10 charges: three counts of genocide, five of crimes against humanity and two of murder. Judges are expected to take months to study the evidence before deciding whether to order Al-Bashir’s arrest.
“Sudan will be continuing its consideration of the violations of human rights and the crimes committed in Darfur” Hesham Youssef, chief of staff for Moussa told Reuters today.
“Those who are accused would stand to be tried within this judiciary system. The individuals that will be facing trial would depend on the investigations that are conducted by the government” he added.
The Arab League official also said that the proceedings can be monitored by the United Nations, Arab League and African Union.
The ICC prosecutor in his semi-annual reports to the UN Security Council (UNSC) took note of special courts set up by Sudan to prosecute Darfur war crimes suspects but said that they are not looking into the same crimes.
Under the ICC statue the court will not look into a case if the state is already looking into it. However the suspects investigated must be the same ones named by the courts and tried for the same crimes.
The judges of the ICC issued their first arrest warrants for suspects accused of war crimes in Sudan’s Darfur region last year.
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 must prosecute Haroun and Kushayb for the same accusations brought against them by the ICC in order for the latter to lose jurisdiction over their cases.
A major problem posed by national proceedings in Sudan is that the penal code does not include punishment for genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes. Moreover Sudanese military officials enjoy immunity from prosecution for acts committed during their course of duty.
The Arab League official appeared optimistic that the proposed plan would resolve the standoff between Khartoum and the ICC.
“In light of all these steps, it is expected that we would be going to the Security Council to ask the Security Council to defer the process initiated by the ICC” Youssef said.
Article 16 of the ICC 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 African Union (AU) yesterday asked the UNSC to invoke article 16 of Rome Statue and suspend any indictment of Sudan’s head of state.
But the request got cool reception from some members of the UNSC.
The French Ambassador to the UN Jean-Maurice Ripert said that the UNSC “should not interfere with the due process of law in terms of letting the ICC do its work”.
“We remind the authorities in Khartoum that they have some obligations and commitments vis-à-vis the UNSC which repeatedly asked for their cooperation with the ICC and it is not too late for them to cooperate” he added.
Asked to comment on the African and Arab bloc at the UN requests to suspend indictment, the French diplomat said he respects AU decision but scathingly dismissed any imminent decision on the matter.
“They can do whatever they wish. It is a free country. As soon as they find a country to do it we will look into it” Ripert said.
The US envoy at the UN Zalmay Khalilzad said that he does not expect UNSC action on suspension “in the foreseeable future” and added that “there should be no impunity”.
Another US official echoed Khalilzad’s remarks.
“We strongly support holding accountable those who are responsible for genocide in Darfur," Richard Grenell, spokesman for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, told The Associated Press on Monday.
It is widely expected that China and Russia would back such a step but neither have tabled a formal resolution.
But Russia’s U.N. ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters on Monday that his country would not initiate such a resolution saying other countries are better suited to push it.
He also declined to explicitly voice support for such a resolution but said that it is “worth considering”.
Russia has voted in favor of resolution 1593 in March 2005 referring Darfur situation to the ICC.
Sudan has not ratified the Rome Statue, but the UN Security Council triggered the provisions under the Statue that enables it to refer situations in non-State parties to the world court if it deems that it is a threat to international peace and security.