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Bashir Vows Never to Hand Sudanese Over to ICC

Human rights groups are reportedly criticizing Turkey for hosting Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir at the two-day Turkey-Africa Cooperation Summit, urging Ankara to reject any effort to suspend the International Criminal Court's (ICC) investigation. This comes after President Bashir said Wednesday that no citizen of his country would ever be handed over to international justice to be tried abroad, no matter the international pressure brought bear on his administration. He adds that the ICC prosecutor's move was encouraging rebels in the western Darfur region to fuel unrest to unseat his government. Sara Darehshori is a Senior Counsel, of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch. She tells reporter Peter Clottey that Bashir's pronouncement is no news.

"That statement is actually not news. Several government officials have been claiming it ever since the ICC first started looking into the situation in Darfur. But the thing about the claim is that it is not totally inaccurate in one sense, and that is, if the Sudanese government decides to try the people who have been charged by the ICC for the same crimes in national courts in proceedings, then they can bring an admissibility challenge before the ICC, which is to say the way the International Criminal Court was established was so that national courts would have primary jurisdiction over cases. But that means the government would have to be willing and able to try the case themselves," Darehshori noted.

She said Khartoum has not shown it was willing to put on trial those accused of committing various acts of crime against humanity in Darfur.

"In this case, Sudan has not shown itself so far to be willing to try any of the people involved in the crime in Darfur. So it is unlikely that an admissibility challenge will succeed. So the real challenge will be securing arrest without cooperation of the Sudanese government," She said.

Darehshori said supporters of Khartoum have been reportedly been using violence and intimidation in Darfur.

"What I have heard is that there is a fear of retaliation by government forces or government sympathizers allied militia against peacekeepers and humanitarian workers if an arrest warrant is issued. But with all parties, be it rebels or government forces, international humanitarian law requires that they not attack peacekeepers or humanitarian workers. The Security Council and others need to make it clear that if additional crimes are committed, there would be consequences for those acts," Darehshori pointed out.

She described as embarrassing support given to Khartoum over a possible indictment of President Bashir over war crimes in Darfur.

"I think that threats of retaliation and I think attacks on peacekeepers should make it basically embarrassing for people who are supporters of the Sudanese government in this context to continue to support them. This type of regime is not something that other governments should be willing to stand behind even if in principle they think that issuing an arrest warrants against the head of a government while it is still in conflict is problematic," she said.

President Bashir reportedly said that the attempt to use the international justice against Sudan is an attempt to encourage rebel groups opposing peace to continue destruction and destabilization to topple the Khartoum regime. He added that his country has its own judicial institutions capable of trying anyone who violates justice.

The International Criminal Court last month asked for President Bashir's arrest on 10 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide in Darfur.