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Sudan dismisses Bashir arrest warrant as 'rumours'

Video by Louis MASSIE

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-02-12

A New York Times report says the International Criminal Court has decided to issue a warrant for Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir (pictured) over allegations of war crimes in Darfur. Sudan dismissed the Times claim as "rumours".


According to US media, the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague is expected to issue an arrest warrant in the coming days for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir over the Darfur conflict. Sudan's foreign ministry said it had not received any notification from the court in The Hague.

 

However, Laurence Blairon, a spokesperson for the ICC, told AFP that there is no arrest warrant "at this time". The Sudanese under-secretary of state for foreign affairs, Mutrif Siddiq, told AFP, "These rumours are aimed at compromising talks at Doha, that's why we aren't taking them seriously."

 

The New York Times reported on Wednesday that judges at the court have decided to pursue an arrest warrant despite arguments that doing so could hamper peace negotiations. The warrant would be the first time the international court has sought the arrest of a head of state in office since its creation in 2002.

 

Sudan’s UN ambassador, Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad, told the Times he had not heard the news of the upcoming warrant, adding: “It would not be a surprise to us. It does not concern us.”

 

FRANCE 24’s correspondent in Khartoum, Abdelatif Zoheir, says the Sudanese government is not likely to react to the warrant. “The Sudanese state largely disregards the ICC, as it never really recognised the existence of the international tribunal,” Zoheir said.

 

In Sudan, officials and humanitarian workers warned that the ICC’s move might provoke unrest. “The threat of an arrest warrant is something that people here are taking very seriously,” Zoheir said. “Everyone anxiously awaits to see how al-Bashir’s supporters and opponents will react.”

 

The ICC’s chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, had originally asked the court for an arrest warrant against al-Bashir in July 2008. His request cited 10 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes related to the suppression of Darfur’s black African population. But the Times reported that details of the current warrant are not known.

 

Bashir appointed himself president in 1993, four years after leading a bloodless coup, and has held the post ever since. He is up for re-election in July 2009.

 

China, the African Union and the Arab League have all warned an indictment of Bashir could destabilise the region, worsen the conflict in Darfur and threaten a troubled peace deal between north Sudan and the semi-autonomous south.
 

 

Date created : 2009-02-12

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