Backlash fears as Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir, faces genocide indictment – James Bone, New York(TimesOnLine)

July 11th, 2008 Print Print Email Email

The UN is braced for a fierce backlash from the imminent indictment of the Sudanese president for genocide and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

Omar al-Bashir will become the first sitting head of state and the first Arab leader to be charged by the International Criminal Court (ICC), which celebrates the 10th anniversary of its founding charter on Thursday. (more…)

The UN is braced for a fierce backlash from the imminent indictment of the Sudanese president for genocide and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

Omar al-Bashir will become the first sitting head of state and the first Arab leader to be charged by the International Criminal Court (ICC), which celebrates the 10th anniversary of its founding charter on Thursday.
Diplomats say Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the international prosecutor, will seek an arrest warrant for Mr al-Bashir from ICC judges in the Hague on Monday.

Thousands of UN peacekeepers in Sudan have regrouped and received extra provisions in recent days in anticipation of a hostile Sudanese response to the prosecutor’s move.

Peacekeeping commanders and other key personnel have been told to cut short leave to return to their posts, and urgent talks on the future of the UN forces in Darfur and southern Sudan have been held in New York.

The five veto powers at the UN, including Britain, met privately on Thursday with Jean-Marie Guehenno, the head of UN peacekeeping, to discuss “force protection” in the wake of an attack on UN troops in northern Darfur on Tuesday, leaving seven dead and 22 wounded.

Sudan has repeatedly threatened retaliation for charges being levelled against its leader after the slaughter in Darfur was referred to the ICC by the UN Security Council in March 2005.

UN officials fear the indictment, which must be approved by ICC judges, could precipitate the collapse of the fragile UN force in Darfur, where some 300,000 people have died since government-backed Janjaweed Arab militias began driving villagers from their homes in 2003.

A joint UN-African Union force is struggling to stabilise Darfur despite having only 9,500 of its full strength of 26,000 peacekeepers.

The UN is dependent on Sudan’s halting cooperation to reinforce the peacekeeping mission with troops from Egypt, Ethiopia, and Nigeria as well as non-African contingents from Thailand, Nepal, Bangladesh, a Dutch field hospital and Chinese engineers.

The UN also maintains another 10,000 peacekeepers in southern Sudan to police the peace settlement that ended the long-running civil war.

Abdalmahmood Mohamad, Sudan’s ambassador to the UN, said the repercussions of charging Mr al-Bashir could be “disastrous.”

“It’s playing with fire. We want to caution and alert the international community to the possible consequences,” he said. “All options are open for us. All reactions are open.”

The attack on a convoy of some 60 UN peacekeepers by a group of 200 armed men in Darfur on Tuesday is seen as a possible prelude to a wider offensive against UN peacekeepers.

UN officials describe the attack as an ambush by Sudanese government “proxies” in which more advanced weaponry, such as recoil-less rifles mounted on the back of “technical vehicles”, was used in Darfur for the first time.

The international prosecutor has already charged 11 war crimes suspects from Africa – including two Sudanese accused of organising the mass killings, torture, rape and forcible displacement in Darfur.

One is Ahmad Harun, who allegedly coordinated the Sudanese army and Janjaweed militia while servicing as minister of state for the interior and head of the “Darfur security desk” in 2003 and 2004.

UN officials are still forced to deal with Mr Harun because he is now Sudan’s secretary of state for humanitarian affairs and the government’s liason with the UN force in Darfur. The other indictee is Janjaweed militia leader Ali Kushayb.

Mr Moreno-Ocampo, an Argentine, told the UN last month that the “entire state apparatus” had been mobilised for the campaign of rape and pillage in Darfur. He stressed that the government had failed to turn over Mr Harun.

“The Sudanese government tolerates the firefighters and promotes the arsonists at the same time. The international community cannot ignore the arsonists. If they remain, there will never be enough firefights,” he said.

Although he is meant to avoid politics, Mr Moreno-Ocampo has consulted with key powers at the UN about the charges against Mr al-Bashir. He has informally notified the UN secretary-general of his plans.

Britain, publicly supportive of the ICC, is said to have warned the prosecutor privately of the wide-ranging consequences of indicting the Sudanese president. Mr Mohamad, Sudan’s UN ambassador, called for the 15-nation Security Council to exercise its power to suspend the indictment for a year in the interests of peace.

However, human rights organisations said the indictment of Mr al-Bashir should go ahead, despite the risks.

Dr James Smith, Chief Executive of the Aegis Trust, the anti-genocide campaign group, said: “Inevitably some panic-prone diplomats fearing attacks on UN peacekeepers and aid workers will call on the UN Security Council to halt the ICC proceedings. In doing so they will squander the only point of leverage the international community has on a regime that governs by genocide.

“At times, justice needs to give way for peace, but only if there is a prospect of peace or significant benefit for the victims. Neither is on the table in Darfur.

“Instead of caving in to threat from the Government of Sudan, the UNSC should consider only two options in response to the prosecutor on Monday: throw its support behind the ICC to make it clear genocide is unacceptable behaviour, or instruct diplomats to use the ICC ruling as a bargaining chip to strike a deal for peace and security in the region. If the UNSC come out of next week with nothing for the beleagured people of Sudan it will be unforgivable.”

  1. yikerbelen
    | #1

    Tommorow will be the worst criminal melese zenawi. he will be hanged like sadam husien

  2. metema
    | #2

    Melesse Zenawi & his gangs are next that is whey meless tryng to be nice for the prosecutor WHEN HE attak his friend Albeshir any way he is KEDATENGA LEBA

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