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ICC Prosecutor: Sudan's Government Must Arrest Bashir


The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court says in the coming months his office will continue to monitor crimes committed in the Darfur region of Sudan while stepping up efforts to arrest fugitives -- including Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. From United Nations headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer reports.

Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told the Security Council Friday that it is the government of Sudan's responsibility to arrest President Bashir. He stated, "the arrest warrant concerning President al-Bashir has been sent to the Sudanese authorities. The government of Sudan has the responsibility to arrest him. Their legal obligation stems from the U.N. Charter and U.N. Security Council resolution 1593."

That resolution, adopted in 2005, gave the court at The Hague the authority to investigate possible war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated in the Darfur conflict since 2003.

So far the court has granted arrest warrants for three individuals - Sudanese Minister Ahmed Harun, militia leader Ali Kushayb, and most recently, President Omar al-Bashir. The court also issued a summons for rebel leader Bahr Idriss Abu Garda as a result of an attack on African Union peacekeepers in Haskanita that killed 12 in 2007.

Moreno-Ocampo told the Security Council that his primary concern is arresting those already indicted and continue the review of on-going crimes. He said there are no plans to open new investigations, at least for the next six months.

He called on states who are party to the Rome Statute, which established the International Criminal Court, to arrest anyone indicted found traveling in their countries. And called on those who are not parties to cooperate. Moreno-Ocampo continued, "states not Party to the Statute have no such legal obligation, but Resolution 1593 urges them to cooperate fully with the Court."

Moreno-Ocampo said every effort will be made to have regional organizations, such as the African Union and Arab League, influence the Sudanese to try such grave crimes in their own national courts. He added, "should regional organizations succeed in promoting national accountability mechanisms for the victims of other crimes, and stop new abuses, we would not need to further intervene."

Speaking to reporters with the prosecutor standing next to him, Sudanese Ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad made clear the Khartoum government does not plan to arrest its own president.

Ambassador Mohamad stated, "we are not going to cooperate in any way with it. And indeed, the record is very clear to everybody - that it is politically motivated and that it will not deliver justice to anybody. So we are not going to cooperate and this is the message to the man on my left -- that he will be dreaming if he thinks that in any way Sudan is going to cooperate with his court."

Unfazed by the ambassador's remarks, Moreno-Ocampo said in many countries presidents have been arrested. He pointed out that they are often marginalized first and then held accountable. He said the court is a permanent body and could wait for Mr. Bashir's arrest. But he stressed that the people who are suffering in Darfur do not have the luxury of time on their side.

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