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Africa

Bashir can't continue business as usual, claims ICC

Video by Jessica LE MASURIER , Laurence CUVILLIER

Latest update : 2009-03-26

Though Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir's managed to travel to Cairo on Wednesday to meet with Egyptian President Mubarak, International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo claims the warrant against him limits his movements.

AFP - Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir met his Egyptian counterpart Hosni Mubarak in Cairo on Wednesday on his second foreign visit since an international court ordered his arrest for war crimes in Darfur.
   
Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit renewed Egyptian opposition to the International Criminal Court's warrant for Beshir's arrest after a few hours of talks between the two leaders.
   
But the office of ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, whose advice triggered the warrant, insisted that despite the visit there was no way for the Sudanese leader to continue business as usual and avoid being held to account.
   
Abul Gheit told reporters that in common with other Arab and African states Egypt "does not accept the court's manner in dealing with the Sudanese president."
   
The court issued a March 4 warrant -- the first against a sitting head of state -- on five counts of crimes against humanity and two counts of war crimes over the government's conduct of its six-year-old war against ethnic minority rebels in Darfur.
   
Egypt -- like all Arab states except for Jordan -- is not a party to the Rome treaty that created the ICC, the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal and had never been likely to take any action against Beshir.
   
The ICC does not have a police force and calls on signatory states to implement warrants. However, all United Nations member states are urged to cooperate with The Hague-based court.
   
Even the United States, where the previous administration described the Darfur conflict as genocidal, said on Tuesday it was under "no legal obligation" to arrest Beshir as it was not a signatory to the Rome statute.
   
But an Ocampo spokesman renewed the ICC prosecutor's call for "all political leaders who might meet Omar el-Beshir to explain to him there is no possible way out.".
   
"There can be no question of 'business as usual' with someone who is the subject of an arrest warrant on charges of such crimes," the spokesman said.
   
The spokesman's comments were echoed by the human rights group Amnesty International which condemned both Egypt and the Arab League for the missed opportunity to arrest Beshir.
   
"Egypt and other members of the League of Arab States should not shield President Beshir from international justice," its secretary general Irene Khan said.
   
Beshir's brief visit to key US ally Egypt came just two days after he made a short visit to diplomatically isolated Eritrea, once an arch-foe of Sudan.
   
Doubts have been raised, however, over whether Beshir will attend an Arab summit in Doha at the end of the month, with Sudan's highest religious authority, the Committee of Muslim Scholars, issuing a fatwa, or edict, urging him not to go.
   
The Egypt visit came amid a worsening humanitarian situation in Darfur after Khartoum ordered the expulsion of 13 international aid agencies in response to the arrest warrant.
   
The United Nations warned on Tuesday that it would appeal to international donors for extra funds following the expulsion of 3,142 aid agency staff.
   
UN humanitarian affairs coordinator Ameerah Haq predicted the situation in Darfur would deteriorate further over the coming weeks.
   
"By the beginning of May, as the hunger gap approaches, and unless the World Food Programme has found partners able to take on the mammoth distribution task, these people will not receive their rations," she said.
   
"Up to 650,000 currently do not have access to full health care," she added.
   
Those aid groups which are still able to work in Darfur are also increasingly concerned about the security situation in the region, with a Sudanese working for a Canadian group shot dead at his home on Monday.
   
The United Nations says 300,000 people have died -- many from disease and hunger -- and 2.7 million been made homeless by the Darfur conflict, which erupted in February 2003.
   
Khartoum puts the death toll at 10,000.

Date created : 2009-03-26

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