Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Genocide: ICC goes after Sudan's Omar al-Bashir

Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court are asking the tribunal to reconsider its earlier decision not to indict Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir for genocide. Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo met with a high-level panel looking for a path to reconciliation in Darfur.

Prosecutor Moreno Ocampo says he appealed the ICC decision not to charge Mr. Bashir with genocide because he believes the evidence is clear that the Sudanese leader mobilized his government to exterminate three Darfur ethnic groups.

A three-judge panel in March issued arrest warrants for Mr. Bashir on several other charges. Mr. Moreno-Ocampo says the decision on the genocide charge was split. "All the chamber accepted the seven charges, five crimes against humanity and two war crimes. But two of the judges refused the charges on genocide. One of the judges accepted."

Moreno-Ocampo was in Addis Ababa for meetings with a high level African Union panel on Darfur led by former South African President Thabo Mbeki. The meeting comes days after African heads of state meeting in Libya defiantly stated they would not cooperate in arresting Mr. Bashir, even though 30 AU members are also ICC members.

AU diplomats say the refusal to cooperate is a symbol of Africa's frustration that the continent's views on Darfur were ignored by the international community. Their appeal to the UN Security Council for a one-year deferment of the indictments was rebuffed.

But Chief Prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo says the summit statement does not relieve African state parties to the ICC of their obligation to arrest Mr. Bashir if he sets foot on their soil. "He tried to go to South Africa and South Africa told him, if you come here, you will be arrested. He is not traveling around. He can't go to states parties," he said.

Prosector Moreno-Ocampo says the decision on whether to defer the indictments for a year is a political matter, not a legal one, and therefore of no concern to him. But he says it does matter to the victims. "We have time. We are a permanent court. We can wait two years, five years, ten years. We can wait. The victims, they cannot wait. Rapes are today. We have to stop the rapes today," he said.

The Mbeki panel was commissioned at an AU summit earlier this year, and assigned to look for an African-led solution to the crisis in Darfur. Hundreds of thousands of people died in 2003 and 2004 when bands of pro-government militia roamed the vast western Sudanese region, wiping out whole villages at a time.

The panel includes seven other distinguished members, including former President of Burundi Pierre Buyoya and former Nigerian leader Abusalam Abubakar. It was due to submit a report in June, but a spokesman said the completion date is still several months away.

Panel members declined interview requests Tuesday. Mr. Mbeki said he would speak at the end of the three day meeting Thursday.

Published with the permission of Voice of America
Published by Mike Hitchen, Mike Hitchen Consulting
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