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ICC Prosecutor Details Efforts in Darfur Case

  • Margaret Besheer

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court at The Hague (file)

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court at The Hague (file)

Luis Moreno-Ocampo says there have been some positive developments in war crimes case against Sudan's president, but also notes frustration over lack of cooperation from government, continuation of crimes in Darfur.

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court at The Hague told the U.N. Security Council Friday that there have been some positive developments relating to his case against the President of Sudan for war crimes committed in the Darfur region of that country. But Luis Moreno-Ocampo also noted his frustration over the lack of cooperation from the Sudanese government and the continuation of crimes in Darfur.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo welcomed cooperation from states that have helped to increase the isolation of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir who faces arrest warrants detailing crimes against humanity and war crimes allegedly committed against the population in Darfur.

"President al-Bashir, at risk of arrest, has not traveled to the territory of States Parties [to the Rome Statute] for high level events which he was planning to attend in South Africa, Uganda, Nigeria or Venezuela," he said. "He cannot attend the U.N. Climate Conference in Copenhagen. He has not attended the U.N. General Assembly or, recently, a meeting of the OIC [Organization of the Islamic Conference] Committee for Economic and Commercial Cooperation."

He said if the process of marginalization is maintained, it is a way towards ultimately implementing the arrest warrants.

He noted another positive development, which was the appearance at The Hague last month of rebel leader Bahr Idriss Abu Garda. The head of the United Resistance Front came voluntarily to a hearing to determine whether he can be tried for the 2007 killing of 12 African Union peacekeepers at Haskinita in North Darfur. Moreno-Ocampo says he expects the decision of the judges within two months.

The chief prosecutor also welcomed complementary efforts from the Arab League and the African Union. The latter has a high-level panel on Darfur, headed by former South African President Thabo Mbeki. In October, the panel issued a report endorsing the ICC's work and urging Sudan to establish hybrid courts for trying other suspected perpetrators of crimes in Darfur.

But Moreno-Ocampo said there have been negative developments in two areas - the government of Sudan's lack of cooperation and the continuation of crimes. He said the government is legally obligated under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1593 to comply with the warrants and turn over President Bashir and two other suspects.

"President Bashir has refused to appear in Court," he said. "He has refused to appoint a lawyer to represent his position. He has refused to arrest Ali Kushayb and Ahmad Harun. Instead over the last six months, he has continued using the Sudanese state apparatus to conduct a diplomatic and political and communication campaign against the Court."

He warned that President Bashir is attempting to redirect the spotlight away from himself by intensifying problems elsewhere - particularly in semi-autonomous Southern Sudan, where the United Nations says tribal violence has killed more than 2,000 people this year.

"President Bashir will exacerbate such conflict if it can shift your attention from the crimes committed in Darfur and his responsibility," he said.

The prosecutor asked the Security Council for its full support in ensuring that attention remains on the need to arrest President Bashir and the other two suspects and on ending crimes in Darfur.

President Bashir has denied committing any crimes and his U.N. Ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad reinforced that position to reporters after the Security Council session.

"From our side, we will not be bothered by this prosecutor," he said. "The case of the ICC for us is a closed dossier."

He said war is over in Darfur and it is only waged in some Western capitals and on "some floors" at the United Nations.

The United Nations says up to 300,000 people have died in the Darfur conflict and 2.7 million more have been driven from their homes.