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ICC Indictments: Sudan Seeks Arab League Meeting

By Derek Kilner
12 July 2008

Sudan Asks for Arab League Meeting on International Criminal Court's (ICC) Indictments

The Sudanese government has called for a special meeting of the Arab League group of countries to discuss the International Criminal Court's (ICC) investigation into war crimes in the Darfur region of Sudan. The move comes amid a growing number of reports that the International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor will announce an indictment of Sudan's president on Monday.

The International Criminal Court's (ICC) chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo is scheduled to deliver a news conference on Monday where he is expected to announce one or more new indictments in an investigation into the conflict in the Darfur region of western Sudan.

No names have yet been revealed, but there is growing speculation that Moreno-Ocampo will seek the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for his role in war crimes.

The Arab League says it has received a request from the Sudanese government to hold a meeting on the issue, and has begun consulting foreign ministers from the member countries.

On Friday, Sudan's ambassador to the United Nations, Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem, denounced the possibility of an indictment against President Bashir.

"It is a criminal move," he said. "A criminal move that should be resisted by all peace wishers and peace loving countries in the world."

Sudan has refused to hand over the two Sudanese citizens currently wanted by the ICC, Ali Kushayb, a leader of the government-backed Janjaweed militia, and humanitarian affairs minister Ahmed Haroun. Sudanese officials have indicated that the government will continue to reject requests to turn over any Sudanese citizen to the ICC.

Some activists have welcomed the possibility of charges against President Bashir, which would mark the first time the court has sought charges against a sitting head of state. Other international tribunals have brought charges against leaders still in office, including Serbia's Slobodan Milosevic and Liberia's Charles Taylor.

But U.N. officials and humanitarian workers have expressed concern that an indictment of President Bashir could antagonize the Sudanese government and invite retaliation that could complicate the deployment of a U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force that is already behind schedule, and threaten the security of aid operations on the ground in Darfur.

Seven peacekeepers were killed on Tuesday when gunmen ambushed a patrol in north Darfur. The attackers have not been identified, but some observers suspect they belong to the Janjaweed militia.

Analysts have also cautioned that an indictment could compromise efforts to revive peace talks between the government and rebels. Abdalhaleem indicated that such a move would damage Sudan's relations with the international community.

"This man has come with this adventure to take us back to square one and to destabilize the constructive engagement that Sudan has with the international community," he said. "This is why we are condemning it in the strongest possible terms and we think that it is the responsibility of the international community also to do likewise."

In June, Moreno-Ocampo said that Sudan's "entire state apparatus" was involved in organizing crimes against civilians in Darfur.

The U.N. says the conflict has killed between 200,000 and 300,000 people since 2003, and displaced over 2 million. Sudan's government says no more than 10,000 have died.


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