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Arab League gives support to Sudan

Posted by alfied on July 20, 2008

Mona Salem, AFP

Published: Saturday, July 19, 2008

CAIRO – The Arab League on Saturday slammed the International Criminal Court’s “unbalanced” prosecutor for seeking the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, saying Sudan’s courts should judge alleged Darfur war crimes.

Arab foreign ministers stressed “the mandate of Sudan’s civil judiciary in achieving justice,” in a resolution following crisis talks in Cairo over how to deal with ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo’s request on Monday for Bashir to be arrested on genocide charges.

The resolution also criticized Moreno-Ocampo’s “unbalanced stance” for asking ICC judges to issue a warrant for Bashir’s arrest, which, if granted, would be the first ever issued by The Hague-based court against a sitting head of state.

Some of the Arab League’s 22 members have previously criticized Moreno-Ocampo’s move, saying it threatens peace prospects in Darfur, while also fearing a dangerous precedent for other leaders in the region.

The ministers called for trials of Darfur war crimes suspects to take place in Sudan, vowing that “effective justice will be realized with the follow-up of the Arab League and the African Union.”

Khartoum has consistently rejected the ICC’s jurisdiction, saying it would try alleged war criminals in its own courts, although credible trials have so far failed to materialize.

Sudan has refused to surrender two suspects named last year in connection with war crimes in Darfur and hopes to persuade veto-wielding permanent members of the UN Security Council to defer any ICC prosecution of Bashir.

“We noted a lack of balance in (Moreno-Ocampo’s) report because it contains nothing about the (Darfur) rebel movements and what they’ve done,” Arab League chief Amr Mussa told journalists following more than seven hours of talks.

However, Moreno-Ocampo on Thursday vowed to prosecute Darfur rebel commanders alleged responsible for the killing of 10 African Union (AU) troops last year, saying the ICC had the names of the alleged perpetrators.

“Sudanese justice will have a very important role in the next stage,” Mussa said, adding that he would take an Arab action plan to Khartoum on Sunday. He refused to say what the plan was until he discussed it with Sudanese leaders.

“We will coordinate with the African Union and pursue contacts with the UN,” he said. “This crisis will have a considered solution.”

However, the Arab ministers made no mention of asking the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution requesting the ICC suspend its procedures for 12 months, as had been mooted.

Such a suspension, which is indefinitely renewable, would be in tandem with African efforts, after Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade on Thursday asked the ICC to freeze its prosecution for a year, citing Article 16 of the Rome Statute which created the court.

“If the prosecution of al-Bashir continues, the situation in Darfur could worsen and plunge into indescribable chaos,” Wade warned.

The conflict in the Darfur region of western Sudan broke out in 2003 when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated regime in Khartoum and state-backed militias.

The United Nations has said 300,000 people have died and more than 2.2 million have been displaced. Khartoum puts the number of dead at 10,000.

The ICC is the world’s first permanent tribunal for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.

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