The United States Friday warned Sudan against retaliating against U.N. peacekeepers, foreign diplomats or others for expected genocide charges against the country's president, Omar al-Bashir. Action by the International Criminal Court (ICC) against the Sudanese leader is expected Monday. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.
With the expectation that the ICC chief prosecutor will seek an arrest warrant against the Sudanese leader Monday, the Bush administration is making clear that it expects Sudan to uphold its international obligations for the safety of diplomats and other foreigners in that country.
Sudan's U.N. ambassador has insisted publicly that Khartoum will not retaliate against U.N. peacekeepers for what would be an unprecedented ICC action against a sitting world leader.
But U.S. officials are deeply concerned about an attack by unidentified gunmen earlier this week in Darfur that killed seven U.N. troops, and warnings by Sudan that action against Mr. al-Bashir would have grave repercussions.
In a talk with reporters, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said Sudan has obligations under U.N. Security Council resolutions and the Vienna Conventions on diplomacy, which must be upheld:
"It is our view that all parties involved, including Sudan, need to abide by their international obligations," he said. "In the case of Sudan, this means their international obligations vis-à-vis the deployment of peacekeepers, and of course, we deplore any violence that takes place, whomever is responsible for that."
The Bush administration opposed the creation of the International Criminal Court several years ago, contending it had open-ended powers that might lead to frivolous prosecutions of U.S. servicemen abroad.
However, the United States has also held, since a determination by former Secretary of State Colin Powell in 2004, that government-inspired violence in Darfur amounts to genocide.
McCormack noted that the United States, despite its general opposition to the ICC, did not veto the 2005 U.N. Security Council measure authorizing the ICC Sudan investigation:
"The United States abstained from that resolution," he added. "I think that that action says something in terms of where we are vis-à-vis the ICC, Sudan, and our strong conviction that individuals in Sudan responsible for atrocities need to be a held to account. Again, I am not pointing to any particular individuals, but individuals responsible for atrocities do need to be held to account. That was our statement at the time, and that holds true today."
Members of the State Department legal team had said in the past that they would consider requests from the ICC for information pertaining to crimes in Sudan, though McCormack would neither confirm nor deny U.S. assistance to the ICC probe.
The State Department conducted an extensive survey, including hundreds of interviews with displaced persons in Sudan and Chad before making the 2004 Darfur genocide determination.