Monday, July 21, 2008

Arab league to block justice for Darfur

The news speaks for itself. The Arab League is rushing to defend an acknowledged genocidal war criminal.
Ami Isseroff
Monday, July 21, 2008
Jennie Matthew
Agence France Presse
KHARTOUM: Arab League chief Amr Moussa headed for Khartoum on Sunday with a plan aimed at stalling possible legal moves against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, accused of masterminding genocide in Darfur. Bashir was to receive Moussa Sunday evening, bolstered by an agreement from Arab foreign ministers to seek a political solution to the crisis sparked when the World Court prosecutor sought an arrest warrant for Bashir.
Egypt's official MENA news agency, quoting Sudanese Deputy Foreign Minister Al Samani al-Wassila, said Moussa would suggest to Bashir "the possibility of holding an international conference."
Such a conference, it added, would "gather all forces and Sudanese and international parties to solve the problem of Darfur ... and to close the file in a definite manner."
The Arab League on Saturday resolved to support Sudan, slammed International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo as "unbalanced," and said Sudanese courts should judge those accused of war crimes during Darfur's five-year conflict.
Moreno-Ocampo accuses Bashir of personally instructing his forces to annihilate three non-Arab ethnic groups in Darfur, masterminding murder, torture, pillaging and the use of rape to commit genocide.
The UN says up to 300,000 people have died and more than 2.2 million have fled their homes since the conflict erupted in February 2003. Sudan says 10,000 have been killed.
It began when African ethnic minority rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated Khartoum regime and state-backed Arab militias, fighting for resources and power in one of the most remote and deprived places on earth.
Moreno-Ocampo asked ICC judges Monday to issue a warrant for Bashir's arrest. If granted, which it is unlikely to happen for months, it would be the first issued by The Hague-based court against a sitting head of state.
Moussa has refused to divulge details of the plan before his meetings in Khartoum, but the Arab League on Saturday urged Sudan to give suspected Darfur war criminals trials that were not a "sham." According to the ICC statute, if credible trials of alleged war criminals are held domestically, the court's own charges are dropped.
Sudan's two other ICC indictees, Cabinet Minister Ahmad Harun and Arab militia leader Ali Kosheib, had both been set to face trial in Sudanese courts on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Kosheib's trial was indefinitely suspended in March 2007. Harun was briefly detained and released last October for lack of evidence.
Sudanese diplomatic efforts now focus on persuading the UN Security Council to freeze any prosecution of Bashir for a year, renewable, warning that peace prospects would be severely undermined.
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Ali Karti, told reporters in Khartoum that information could soon emerge about Sudan approaching the Security Council to invoke article 16 of the Rome Statute.
"Nothing is done now, actually, for the Security Council to take any action ... Now we have the African Union, we have the Arab League ... maybe in the coming few days you will hear about something like that," he said.
The Security Council has the power to adopt a resolution requesting that the ICC suspend its procedures for 12 months.
Western members of the 15-strong council have called consideration of such a freeze premature, given that the ICC judges have not yet formally issued any arrest warrant.
Sudan is also banking on strong support from the African Union, which can also put such a request to the Security Council, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).
Egypt, meanwhile, called Sunday for an international conference to find a political solution to the conflict in Darfur, state media reported.
The conference should be held "in coordination with the UN, permanent members of the Security Council and countries influential in Africa," the MENA news agency quoted Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu al-Gheit as saying. - AFP

No comments: