Bashir's arrest depends on states' collaboration

AFP , Saturday 2 Jul 2011

He may have an arrest warrant against him, but Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir continues to jet around the world in defiance of the International Criminal Court, which depends on the goodwill of states to catch him

Wanted for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur, Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir on Friday flew back to Sudan after a three-day official visit to China, where he was given the red-carpet treatment.

The visit drew a rebuke by the United States and UN human rights chief Navi Pillay's "disappointment", but nothing happened to the Sudanese leader in Beijing.

China slapped down criticism, saying it had not signed the Rome Statute, the ICC's founding document, which was ratified by 116 countries promising to cooperate with the independent world crimes court.

"China is a permanent member of the UN Security Council, which focused the prosecutor's attention on the situation in Darfur. It would have been logical to support what the Council asked for," said ICC jurist Fadi el-Abdallah, who works in the court's information section.

"China sells arms to Sudan, which are used in Darfur and they (China) are looking for oil. China favours its economic interests in Africa above any other considerations," added a source close to the UN, who asked not to be named.

The ICC, which does not have its own police force, on Monday issued its second arrest warrant against a head of state, Libya's Moamer Kadhafi, for crimes against humanity committed since a rebellion broke out there in mid-February.

Despite having an arrest warrant issued against him in 2009 for war crimes and crimes against humanity, Bashir has travelled abroad numerous times.

Most recently he went to Djibouti, but he has also been to Kenya and Chad. All three countries are state parties to the Rome Statute.

With each visit, ICC judges "informed" the Security Council and the Assembly of State Parties to the Rome Statute so "any appropriate measures can be taken by its members."

"There has been no success up until now," El-Abdallah admitted.

But he added: "We have more and more positive feedback from states, including non-parties to the Rome Statute," citing Libya as an example.

In Libya's case, the UN Security Council resolution referring the situation to the ICC was unanimously adopted whereas with Sudan, it was through majority vote only, El-Abdallah pointed out. "Omar al-Bashir's arrest does not fall in the domain of miracles, but strategy," the source close to the UN stressed.

"It's necessary to mobilise intelligence services, to have political will, to have financial means and soldiers if necessary. It's just like what happened in the case of arrests in the former Yugoslavia," the source said.

"The calendar depends on the mobilisation of the international community, there is no magic recipe," said a source within the prosecutor's office.
Meanwhile, Kenya acknowledged having made an error by inviting Bashir to attend a ceremony in August last year to promulgate its new constitution.

Said the source close to the UN of Kenya's blunder: "They invited Bashir once, but won't do so again. They were 'slaughtered' by the United States and all their ambassadors were called in in Europe's capitals."

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