July 13, 2010 (WASHINGTON) — The U.S. special envoy to Sudan Scott Gration appeared to strike a different tone than that of the White House and the State Department on the decision by the judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) to add genocide charges to list of counts against president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir.
Prior to Monday’s ruling, Bashir already faced seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his alleged role in orchestrating extermination campaign against the African tribes of the Fur, Masaalit and Zaghawa living in Sudan’s Western region of Darfur.
Last year the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber refused to add three counts of genocide requested by the prosecutors prompting a an appeal by the latter in which he ultimately prevailed in.
Darfur rebels and rights groups have hailed the ruling calling a victory for the Darfur victims and a strong message against impunity in Sudan and around the world.
Yesterday the U.S. state department spokesman P.J. Crowley urged al-Bashir to submit himself to the ICC to face the genocide charges and revealed that Gration has told Sudanese officials that their boss must face justice in the Hague.
Crowley said that Gration will renew his call during his visit to Sudan which starts next Friday.
Today the White House echoed the same message saying Khartoum must cooperate with the Hague-based tribunal.
"The United States strongly supports international efforts to bring those responsible for genocide and war crimes in Darfur to justice and believes that there cannot be a lasting peace in Darfur without accountability," said Mike Hammer, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council.
Though the U.S. statement did not name Bashir, it said, "We continue to call on the government of Sudan and all other parties to the conflict to cooperate fully with the International Criminal Court."
But today the U.S. special envoy speaking at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) expressed dissatisfaction with the ICC latest move.
"The decision by the ICC to accuse Sudanese president Omer Al-Bashir of genocide will make my mission more difficult and challenging especially if we realize that resolving the crisis in Darfur and South, issues of oil and combating terrorism at a 100%, we need Bashir" Gration was quoted as saying by Arabic Language Washington based Radio Sawa.
"Also the issues of citizenship and referendum, the North holds a lot of influence so this is really tough. How will I carry out my duties in this environment?" he posed the question.
In Paris, the ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo called on all states to isolate Bashir and urged non-ICC members such as U.S., China and Russia to "do something" after judges approved the genocide charges.
"We need all heads of state to say that if you commit genocide you cannot be part of the club... Because it’s a genocide, even states who are not members of the ICC now have a legal obligation to do something," Ocampo said.
The new arrest warrant means the 1948 Genocide Convention can be invoked, Ocampo said, including in states such as the U.S., Russia and China, and even Sudan itself.
"They have to be clear. I mean China, Russia, the U.S. making clear statements," the ICC prosecutor told reporters.
The prosecutor said a Friday meeting of the United Nations Security Council was an opportunity for countries to make a stand against Bashir.
"We are asking for a robust political decision. If the security council members agree to stop this, they can stop it in one day."
Khartoum has dismissed the latest arrest warrant, accusing the ICC of being part of a Western conspiracy trying to destabilize the country and stall development as well as peace talks with the rebels in Darfur. The Sudanese government says its position is supported by Arab, African and Islamic countries.
Today the Arab League Secretary General Amr Mousa criticized the fresh genocide charges saying it might further destabilize the volatile situation in the East African nation and impact the 2011 referendum in South Sudan.
Mousa also questioned the timing of the decision and stressed that Arab League and African Union commissions found no evidence of genocide in Darfur.
The United States is the only country which has labeled the conflict in Darfur as genocide and a 2004 U.N. commission of inquiry said that while some figures may have committed crimes with genocidal intent, only a court of law can establish that it occurred.