News / Africa

US Says Sudan Peace Requires War Crimes Accountability

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir (file photo)
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir (file photo)

The United States Wednesday renewed its call on Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to answer war crimes charges against him by the International Criminal Court, the ICC. The comments came as the Sudanese leader visited ICC signatory country Chad.

The State Department is declining to say whether it is disappointed over Chad's failure to arrest the Sudanese leader, as it was nominally obliged to do as an ICC signatory country.

But it says President Basher and others facing international charges over violence and death in Darfur will eventually have to answer to the ICC if there is to be lasting peace and stability in Sudan.

The comments came after President Bashir Wednesday arrived in neighboring Chad, the first ICC member country he has visited since being indicted last year on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in connection with the seven-year conflict in Darfur .

Last week, the court based in The Hague added an arrest warrant against Mr. Bashir for three counts of genocide.

The Darfur conflict, which U.N. officials say has led to the deaths of 300,000 people and displaced more than two million others, has at times  spilled over into Chad and its relations with Sudan have been tense.

But Mr. Bashir said on arrival in Chad that bilateral differences have been resolved, and the Chadian interior minister said the Sudanese leader would not face arrest.

At a news briefing here, State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley said it is up to Chad to explain why it did not act in line with its ICC obligations, but said the Sudanese leader ultimately must face the charges.

"We strongly support international efforts to bring those responsible for genocide and war crimes in Darfur to justice," said P.J. Crowley. "We believe that there cannot be lasting peace in Darfur, or stability in Sudan, without accountability and justice. And we will continue to call upon Sudan and other parties to cooperate fully with the International Criminal Court. As we've said many times, ultimately President Bashir must present himself to the court and answer the charges that have been leveled against him."

The United States originally signed the Rome statute setting up the ICC. But the Bush administration withdrew from the accord in 2002, out of concern that U.S. troops and diplomats abroad could be brought before the court.

Nonetheless, the Bush administration later provided tangible support for the court's investigations in Darfur, and U.S. relations with the court have further improved during the Obama administration.

The United States has been heavily involved in diplomatic efforts to bring peace to Darfur and assure implementation of Sudan's 2005 north-south peace accord. However U.S. diplomats including Special Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration have avoided any contact with President Bashir.

Gration is currently on a two-week mission to Africa and the Middle East including Sudan focusing on preparations for the January, 2011 referendum in southern Sudan.

The vote, climaxing the 2005 accord, is to determine if the region is to remain an autonomous part of Sudan or become an independent country.

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