A possible International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant
against Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir took another turn after French
President Nicholas Sarkozy reportedly said Paris might support freezing the
indictment. President Sarkozy reportedly told the United Nations General
Assembly yesterday (Tuesday) that his country would support freezing the
possible ICC indictment if Khartoum radically changes its policies over the
troubled Darfur region. This comes after the ICC chief prosecutor Louis Moreno
Ocampo seeks support from the United Nations and the African Union to
put Sudan's President on trial for war crimes.
is, however, a growing debate at the United Nations over whether the Security
Council should defer the Sudan probe. Fouead Hikmat is the
project director for the Horn of Africa of the International Crisis group. He
tells reporter Peter Clottey from the Sudanese capital, Khartoum that it was
about time that Sudan's government changes its approach on the Darfur crisis.
"I think starting with a
working assumption here in response to what President Sarkozy said today, I
think the assumption is that the government of Sudan and in particular the
ruling National Congress Party (NCP) that it needs radical change by first of
all to agree to engage with the International Criminal Court, which is very,
very important, otherwise if they do refuse to engage the International
Criminal Court then there is no foundation for a radical change as far as the
policies regarding the settlement in Darfur," Hikmat noted.
He said Paris' announcement
should be a catalyst for the ruling party to change its stance on the Darfur
"I could understand that if
we unpack the question of President Sarkozy, it means that first of all the NCP
should accept and engage the International Criminal Court, that is to respond
legally to it and in other words to try to create the conditions for a
sustainable settlement of the conflict of Darfur, which then creates an
argument to invoke article 16," he said.
Article 16 of the
International Criminal Court's statute permits the United Nations Security
Council to freeze ICC indictments for up to one year.
Hikmat said the Darfur
crisis and its ensuing controversy about a possible indictment of Sudan's
President Bashir is a complicated issue to deal with.
"I don't think it is a very
straight forward issue like that because the issues are complex. And I always
do believe that when problems are complex you can't solve them by simple
solutions. By definition, I think the solutions have to be complex so that they
can address the multiple layers and the multiple factors make that problem," Hikmat
He said there was a need for
enthusiasm and confidence building measures among all the stakeholders in the
"At the moment if the two
parties are to negotiate and find a settlement to the problem of Darfur, this
means that there has to be genuine willingness from the government and the
rebel groups to sit round the table and to start to negotiate. Now, what
constitutes that willingness because I don't think the situation now in Sudan
is about the simple willingness just to express your willingness to say that I
would like to sit with others and I'm willing to. Unfortunately, the deep
mistrust that is there among all the parties… that would first have to be
operationalized through positive mechanisms," he said.
Hikmat said if Khartoum is
able to avoid possible ICC indictment it would bode well for the entire Horn of
wish the government would be able to succeed in doing so because that would
avert serious consequences to Sudan and also to the region because the issue at
hand is stability within Sudan and also the regional stability," Hikmat noted.