September 22, 2009 (WASHINGTON) — The appeals chamber at the International Criminal Court (ICC) permitted pro-government Sudanese groups to submit observations regarding an appeal by the prosecutor for including counts of genocide against president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir.
Last March, the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber I refused to endorse genocide charges in the prosecutor’s request to issue an arrest warrant for Bashir in connection with war crimes committed in Darfur. The ICC warrant includes only seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
In July the ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo filed an appeal asking the appellate chamber to reverse the Pre-Trial Chamber I finding on the genocide counts.
Sudan Workers Trade Unions Federation (SWTUF) and the Sudan International Defense Group (SIDG) have contracted Sir Geoffrey Nice, former senior trial attorney at the Yugoslavian War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague, and Rodney Dixon to represent them in the proceedings relating to the Darfur case.
The two groups submitted briefs to the judges contending that the prosecutor has relied on erroneous and unreliable sources as well as making unfounded inferences from the facts he compiled.
However, the ICC prosecutor responded to the petition by asserting that the application violates the rules and procedures of the court because it failed to ask for permission to appeal and outlining the facts of law in question.
He also said that the two groups are not “friends of the courts” and are government proxies seeking to contest the initiation of prosecution against Bashir.
The judges at the appeals chamber appeared to reach a compromise by allowing the pro-Sudan groups to take part in the proceedings on genocide charges but said that it “must be limited to the issue of whether the Pre-Trial Chamber applied the correct legal test under article 58 of the Statute to determine whether there are reasonable grounds to believe that Omar Hassan Ahmad Al Bashir is criminally responsible”.
Observations are to be filed by Friday September 25th and the prosecutor may respond by Friday October 2nd.
Khartoum has denied any links to the two groups but a number of SIDG secretariat members have met with Sudanese officials last year who vowed to support them.
Sudan has said it may deal with the court through a third party, which may include an ICC state party or a law firm.
The groups have submitted several requests to the judges seeking to stall the arrest warrant for Bashir but were ultimately rejected.