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Khartoum Rejects ICC Arrest Warrant Against President Bashir


Khartoum has sharply rejected the international arrest warrant against President Omar Hassan al-Bashir issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) over his alleged involvement in war crimes and crimes against humanity in the restive Darfur region. The Sudanese government described the move as a western conspiracy after it decided to expel 10 foreign organizations, two local, and dissolved two others after accusing them of collaborating with the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Wednesday's arrest warrant is the first to be issued against a sitting head of state by the Hague-based court, which stopped short of including a count of genocide over a conflict that U.N. officials say has killed as many as 300,000 people. The allegations stem from violence carried out in Darfur between 2003 and 2008. President Bashir is accused of instructing his forces to destroy three non-Arab ethnic groups in Darfur with the intention of genocide, leaving millions displaced from their homes in addition to the large death toll. Senior vice president of the International Crisis Group Mark Schneider tells reporter Peter Clottey that the international community clearly needs to back the warrant after Khartoum rejected the indictment.

"The ICC indictment for atrocity crimes in Darfur follows a long investigation that clearly demonstrates to the court his responsibility. And as a result of the indictment, obviously for the victims of the Darfuri massacres, this provides a clear statement of the crimes that they suffered, and there are grounds to believe that Bashir was personally responsible," Schneider pointed out.

He said there is need for the international community to demonstrate its backing of the arrest warrant against President Bashir.

"I think to some degree as a result of their rejection, the international community has to be even more clear about its own response in support of the court. And in that regard, I think one of the first things to do is for the international community to make clear its determination to take action if there is any kind of retaliation against the internally displaced persons inside Darfur, against humanitarian agencies - and that would be the worse possible result. Hopefully, the government of Khartoum does not do that," he said.

Schneider said Khartoum views the warrant in a different light, which culminated in Wednesdays' rejection.

"I think that is the view of the government of Sudan, and it's not the view of the ICC really. The ICC believes that it has full authority to review war crimes, crimes against humanity, which are exactly what the indictment charged Wednesday," Schneider said. "Where did it take place? In this case, Darfur. And one would hope in fact that the government will take a step back and look for a way to establish a fully credible, internationally credible system of judicial accountability and would undertake their actions aimed at a peaceful settlement of the Darfur conflict. At the same time, it still has responsibility of fully implementing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) with respect to the North-South conflict in Southern Sudan."

He is hopeful that executives of the ruling party would back the full implementation of the 2005 comprehensive peace accord, which effectively ended the war between the North and the South.

"One would hope that those within the NCP (National Congress Party) who have the ability to make decisions would understand that it's in their long-term interest to cooperate with the ICC and to fully implement the CPA and to fully seek to ensure the consolidation, if you will, of the North-South peace. That is the only way, truly, that the country would be able to move forward, and that you could have some lifting of sanctions in the future," he noted.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has urged Khartoum to cooperate with all U.N. entities and ensure their safety after the warrant was issued for Bashir's arrest. Earlier in the day, several thousand people waving pictures of Bashir turned out in a rally in Khartoum and denounced the court. Schneider says the protesters could have been organized by Khartoum.

"I think that there are two things: one is to what degree do observers believe that those demonstrations are spontaneous, and to what degree do they believe that they were organized and paid for and directed by the government agencies. I think the latter is essentially the case," Schneider pointed out.

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