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Would UN Security Council Postpone Any Prosecution of Sudanese Leader?


As the International Criminal Court (ICC) considers whether to issue arrest warrants for Sudanese President al-Bashir, some are calling on the UN Security Council to block the action.

The ICC's prosecutor says the Sudanese leader should be charged with genocide and war crimes stemming from the war and humanitarian crisis in Darfur. But how much power does the Security Council have over the ICC? Sonia Robla is the head of public information at the International Criminal Court. From The Hague, she spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the court's relationship with the United Nations. However, she refused to be specific regarding the Sudanese president.

"I don't want to answer this question related to a concrete case because it is a hypothetical situation and the court does not answer to hypothetical situations. Moreover, at this stage there is still not even a warrant of arrest issued by the court, but only a request of the office of the prosecutor. So I think that it's a bit early to answer related to a concrete case," she says.

Speaking in more general terms, she says, "What I can explain…or clarify about the relationship between the Security Council and the International Criminal court is the following: The International Criminal Court was established by a treaty of a number of countries which approved the Rome Statute (establishing the court). It is not the result of a resolution of the Security Council of the United Nations, which is the case with the other international tribunals, for example the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia or the International Tribunal for Rwanda. The International Criminal Court is an independent institution, which is not part of the system of the United Nations."

Asked whether that means the ICC is totally independent of the United Nations' influence or pressure, Robla says, "The Rome Statute has a provision, which is Article 15, which established that the Security Council… in a resolution…can request the court to stop investigations or prosecutions. And the Security Council can do it for a period of 12 months. This period can be renewed by the council under the same conditions.

"There's no set number of times the Security Council can do this. "The Rome Statute has no provision about it. The only thing which is clear under Article 16 (of the UN charter) is that the Security Council can renew under the same conditions."

As to why there's no limit on the number of times the council can do this, Robla says, "The court has never faced this situation. The court…started its work five years ago and we were never requested by the Security Council to stop any investigations or prosecutions. However…the situation of Sudan/Darfur was referred to the court by the Security Council…following the Article 13 of the Rome Statute."

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