Sudan's President and Criminal Court in Cat-and-Mouse Game

  • by Thalif Deen (united nations)
  • Friday, August 27, 2010
  • Inter Press Service

The president, who has been indicted by the ICC on charges of genocide and war crimes, seems to be defying Ocampo with the challenge: Catch Me If You Can.

The ongoing battle between the two has intensified - making a mockery of an international arrest warrant issued against the defiant head of state.

Facing charges of genocide and war crimes, Al-Bashir defied the ICC by visiting two African countries recently, Chad and Kenya, which are full-fledged members of the court and obliged to arrest him.

Both countries have ratified the Rome Statute that created the ICC. But they refused to arrest Al-Bashir or even entertain the very thought of arresting a fellow African head of state.

Kenya's Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula would only say that Al-Bashir is the 'head of state of a friendly neighbour state.'

Wetangula pointed out that Kenya did not act on the ICC warrant because 'the African Union (AU) has decided no member should arrest the Sudanese leader.'

The Sudanese president was in Kenya Thursday for the inauguration of that country's new constitution and he was in Chad last month to attend the conference of leaders and heads of state of the Community of Sahel-Saharan States.

William Pace, Convenor of the New York-based Coalition for the International Criminal Court, told IPS: 'The failure of Kenyan authorities to arrest Al-Bashir constitutes a serious breach of Kenya's international obligations under not only the ICC Statute and the UN Charter, but also under its national legislation, including its new constitution, which recognizes the direct applicability of international law.'

'What should have been a day of celebration of Kenya's commitment to human rights, democracy and rule of law is now marred by welcoming an international fugitive and disregarding the plight of the thousands of victims in Darfur,' said Pace, who leads an international coalition of some 2,500 non-governmental organisations (NGO) from over 150 countries.

Since his arrest warrant, Al-Bashir has also visited Ethiopia, Eritrea, Egypt, Libya, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

But these countries have either only signed the Rome Statute, and not ratified it, or not signed it at all. Ratifications bring legal and moral obligations but signatures do not.

In a statement released Friday, the ICC said: 'The Republic of Kenya and the Republic of Chad have an obligation to cooperate with the Court to enforce the warrants of arrest issued against Al Bashir by the ICC.'

But neither country responded to the ICC which issued the arrest warrant on Al-Bashir in March last year: the first time a sitting head of state was indicted by the court.

And the court does not have the enforcing power to send its own police force to arrest him.

A helpless ICC has now appealed to the Security Council and to the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute - 139 member states have ratified, as of last week - to help arrest the Sudanese president.

But Al-Bashir has strong political support from African nations who believe the ICC is singling out Africa whilst ignoring war crimes committed in Iraq and Afghanistan by the United States and members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

According to the CICC, the ICC has opened investigations in five situations: the Central African Republic; Darfur, Sudan; Uganda; Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya.

The court has also publicly issued 12 arrest warrants and three summonses to appear. Two trials are ongoing and a third is expected to open in 2010.

The ICC Office of the Prosecutor has made public that it is examining at least eight situations on four continents, including Afghanistan, Colombia, Cote d'Ivoire, Georgia, Guinea and Palestine.

A frustrated Ocampo was quoted as saying: 'The U.N. Security Council requested the court intervention (to indict al- Bashir). The court decided it is genocide'.

Now the Security Council should implement measures to protect the victims, to protect neighbouring countries and to arrest president Bashir, he added.

But the 15-member Security Council, like the ICC, does not have its own police or military force to enforce the arrest warrant either.

In a statement released Friday, the CICC said that as a member state to the United Nations since 1963, Kenya must abide by and implement the resolutions adopted by the Security Council under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, in this case, Resolution 1593/2005.

Moreover, as a State Party to the ICC Statute, Kenya is under the obligation to arrest and surrender all persons against whom the Court has issued warrants of arrest, including President Al-Bashir.

The statement also pointed out that resolutions of regional bodies, such as the African Union, cannot override States obligation under international treaties, such as the ICC Statute, nor defy resolutions of the United Nations Security Council.

The Coalition called on the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute, as well as on the UN Security Council, to take the necessary measures to ensure the full implementation of ICC decisions, including the execution of all pending warrants of arrest.

Meanwhile, the chair of the Commission of the African Union (AU), Jean Ping, told reporters last month: 'We have to find a way for these entities to work together and not go back to war.'

'This is what we are doing but Ocampo doesn’t care. He just wants to catch Bashir. Let him go and catch him,' he added.

Ping also said that the AU was not against the ICC. There are more than 30 African countries that are part of the ICC.

'But we need to examine their manner of operating. There are double standards,' he added.

'There seems to be some bullying against Africa' Ping added.

© Inter Press Service (2010) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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