12 February 2009

Sudan: Africa Urges Suspension of Bashir Arrest Warrant

African and Arab governments are expected to press the United Nations Security Council to defer the indictment of Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir on war crimes charges on the grounds that it could disrupt peace processes in the country.

The current president of the council, Japanese ambassador Yukio Takasu, confirmed to UN correspondents in New York on Wednesday that a meeting was being arranged between the council and a delegation from the African Union and the Arab League for Thursday.

He was commenting on reports that the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague has decided to issue an arrest warrant for Bashir. The ICC prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo,  last July asked the court to order the arrest of Bashir on 10 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes arising out of the conflict in Darfur.

The prosecutor alleged that Sudanese armed forces and Darfur's Janjaweed militia had been acting on Bashir's orders during a five-year-long campaign of attacking and destroying villages in the region.

Reuters news agency and the New York Times have reported from the UN that the ICC has decided to issue the warrant. However, the court has made no announcement and Takasu said the Security Council had heard "nothing official yet."

Takasu added: "We have been getting a lot of news and indications... The prevailing view in the council is let's wait until it happens and deal it with when it comes."
Under the Rome Statute, which set up the court, the Security Council has the power to defer a prosecution for up to a year at a time.

Last month an Afro-Arab ministerial committee on Darfur, meeting in Doha to prepare for the Darfur peace talks currently being held in the city, called on the council to defer all the Darfur cases referred to the ICC with a view to creating conditions conducive to the talks.

The committee said there was "conformity between efforts to achieve peace and achieve justice" but resolved to assign "absolute importance to achieving peace."

In New York, Ambassador Takasu told correspondents yesterday that "it's easy to say that justice and peace have to... [be pursued] together... But how to apply this important principle, that we have to pursue peace but also justice at the same time... This is the crux of the matter."

Africa is currently represented on the Security Council by Burkina Faso, Libya and Uganda.

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