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Rights Lawyer Speculates ICC Might Issue Warrant Against Sudan's Bashir Next Week

The International Criminal Court (ICC) said on Monday that it will rule next week on whether to issue a warrant for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for alleged war crimes in Darfur. ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo asked the court last July for an arrest warrant for the Sudanese president on charges of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Sudan's war-torn western region.

A pre-trial chamber of judges said Monday that it "would issue its decision on Wednesday, March 4. The African Union said earlier this month that it would lobby for a one-year suspension of the case, saying a trial at the ICC could threaten the peace process in Sudan.

Sarah Dareshori, senior counsel with the International Justice Program of Human Rights Watch told VOA the ICC will most likely approve an arrest warrant for some of the charges against the Sudanese President.

“The court right now is deciding whether there are reasonable grounds to believe that al-Bashir is responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Darfur. That standard of proof is much lower than the threshold that’s required to prove the crime. So I think that if I had to guess I think that it’s likely that a warrant will be issued for at least some of those crimes,” she said.

Dareshori said the thing to watch out for is what would be Sudan’s response. She said the international community should make clear to Khartoum that the world will not tolerate any kind of retaliatory violence.

The African Union said earlier this month that it would lobby for a one-year suspension of the case, saying a trial at the ICC could threaten the peace process in Sudan.

Dareshori said it is not within the ICC’s mandate to consider the ramifications of its decision on the peace process.

“I think the court’s role is really to decide based on the evidence, whether or not the evidence support the findings of reasonable grounds that these crimes were committed and that Bashir was responsible for them. It’s not within their mandate to consider what kind of ramification this will have on peace process. It’s an independent judicial institution that has to really just look at the evidence and focus on that and not try to make predictions about how it would affect peace,” Dareshori said

The Sudan government this month reached an accord with the Justice and Equality Movement in Doha, Qatar paving the way for wider peace talks to end the conflict in Darfur.

Some have speculated that Khartoum may be trying to soften its position on peace in Darfur. But Dareshori said the international community wants to see action from the al-Bashir government not worlds along.

“I think what we need to look for is action and not words, so even we have seen an agreement of goodwill which is a nice thing, we are also still seeing an aerial bombardment in south Darfur. And we have seen in the past ceasefires that only were signed and broken within a couple of days. So I think what we need to see from Sudan is real substantial change in the actions from the government, not just rhetoric which is what we have been given so far,” she said.

The African Union has voiced concerns that the ICC seems to be targeting only African leaders. But Dareshori said the ICC is limited by its jurisdiction.

“It only can try people who are in countries that are parties to the Rome Statute or where there is a Security Council referral which is what happened with Sudan. So in other countries where crimes are occurring if there is not a Security Council referral then the prosecutor is not able to take action,” Dareshori said.