September 18, 2008 (NEW YORK) – France will block any resolution introduced seeking to suspend the International Criminal Court (ICC) indictment of Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir, a French official said today.
In mid-July the ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo announced that he is seeking an arrest warrant for Al-Bashir.
The ICC’s prosecutor Luis Moreno-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 and a number of regional organizations including the African Union (AU), Arab League, Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) condemned Ocampo’s request and called on the UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution deferring Al-Bashir’s indictment.
Last weekend the Guardian newspaper said that France and United Kingdom are quietly backing efforts to stall Al-Bashir indictment.
“I cannot reiterate [further] the constant position of France. For the moment the question is not raised. If the question is raised tomorrow the stance of the French delegation would be very clear. We will oppose any intention by anyone to raise Article 16 relating to the situation in Darfur” the French Ambassador to the UN Jean-Maurice Ripert told reporters in New York today.
Ripert also rejected suggestions that France changed its position on the issue.
“We will oppose for the moment any kind of request for using Article 16. This is very clear and there is absolutely no misunderstanding on that. I think the Sudanese authorities are very clear on where we stand” he said.
Yesterday the French envoy listed a set of conditions after which his government may support invoking Article 16.
“We had extensive meetings with representatives of the African Union (AU) and I think we are passing the same kind of messages [to Sudan] which stop the killings, stop the military action in Darfur…Do what you can do to alleviate the human suffering and improve the humanitarian access to Darfur…increase and improve the capacity of the authorities to participate in a political dialogue with all political forces….improve your relationship with Chad” Ripert said
However the French envoy stressed that Sudan “has to cooperate with the ICC”.
The Sudanese foreign minister spokesperson Ali Al-Sadiq said today cautiously welcomed Ripert’s statements yesterday.
“The efforts of Sudanese diplomacy are reaching all parties connected to the issue including the UNSC P-5 members particularly France, US and Britain” he said.
The Sudanese diplomat also said that Khartoum is working on all tracks including political and judicial to resolve the Darfur crisis.
Ripert said today that if Sudan meets the conditions set forth by him then the UNSC “will review” the situation.
He also said that the issue of Bashir’s indictment is still pending and therefore it is not the time to discuss the matter.
“The ICC is an independent body. We believe in the freedom of justice and the rule of law. The ICC has to decide what it wants to do vis-à-vis Sudan” the French official said.
Sudan has not ratified the Rome Statute, but the UNSC triggered the provisions under the Statute 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.