[dehai-news] ipsnews.net: SUDAN: African Union Against Indictment of Al-Bashir

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From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Fri Jan 30 2009 - 16:04:20 EST

SUDAN: African Union Against Indictment of Al-Bashir
By Michael Chebud


ADDIS ABABA, Jan 30 (IPS) - African governments have rallied behind Sudanese
President Omar Al-Bashir in rejecting a possible international arrest
warrant by the International Criminal Court on charges of orchestrating
genocide in Sudan's volatile western region of Darfur.

"The continent, through the African Union, has requested the UN Peace and
Security Council to suspend the indictment of President Omar Al-Bashir,"
chairperson of the African Union Commission Jean Ping told IPS on the
sidelines of a high-level meeting of African foreign ministers in Addis
Ababa on Jan. 29.

Following a three-year investigation at the behest of the U.N. Security
Council, ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo concluded there are
reasonable grounds to believe that Bashir bears criminal responsibility in
relation to 10 counts of Genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Moreno-Ocampo alleges that Bashir masterminded and implemented a plan to
destroy in substantive part the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa groups in Sudan, on
account of their ethnicity.

"His motives were largely political. His alibi was a 'counterinsurgency.'
His intent was genocide," the prosecutor said the prosecutor in its evidence
presented to Pre-Trial Chamber on Jul. 14, 2008.

The UN estimates the Darfur conflict has cost 300,000 lives in five years
while over 2.7 million people have been displaced.

Deployment of a joint U.N./AU peace-making force has not gone according to
plan. Little more than half of the authorized 26,000-member African
Union/United Nations Hybrid operation in Darfur (UNAMID) is in Sudan at
present. By March, more troops are expected to arrive by March from Egypt,
South Africa, Senegal, Bangladesh and other U.N. member states.

Chairperson Ping says things are moving in the right direction regarding
UNAMID. Eighty percent of the full troop deployment target will be reached
in the next three months, he said.

An analysis published by Foreign Policy in Focus, a U.S. based think tank on
Jan. 27 is not so optimistic.

"This will be a critical year for Sudan's future. The crisis in Darfur has
grown and now affects the entire region's stability. The joint UN-African
Union peacekeeping force (UNAMID) authorised in July 2007 remains too
understaffed and under-equipped to be effective," reads the report.
"Civilian displacements and killings in Darfur continued throughout 2008 as
UNAMID was reduced to bystanders because of acute shortages of troops, road
transport, and helicopters."

Khartoum says the West is exaggerating the severity of the situation,
putting the total death toll at around 10,000. The country's authorities are
pleased by the backing of the AU.

"The move by the ICC distracts [from] the peace process. We are glad that
the African Union Commission reflected the united stand of Africa against
the court," Molieldin Salim, Sudanese ambassador to Ethiopia, told IPS in
Addis Ababa.

Human Rights Watch's London director, Tom Porteous, rejects the assertion
that Bashir's indictment would harm the peace process.

"There hasn't been much progress on Darfur in terms of a peace process. In
our view, sustainable peace in Darfur and the region can only be achieved if
those responsible for human rights abuses are brought to justice. We don't
think that any peace process that depends on people against whom there is
credible evidence of responsibilty for serious crimes is going to be a
fruitful peace process in the long term."

Speaking to IPS on the phone from London, he said HRW hoped the pre-trial
judges at the ICC will issue the arrest warrant in the next few weeks.

"Obviously, Human Rights Watch was one of the first to document human rights
abuses in Darfur, and we have been consistently calling for accountability
for those who bear the greatest responsibility to be brought to justice. We
hope that a warrant for the arrest of al-Bashir will be issued as we feel
this would be an important step forward for justice for the victims of
Darfur and accountability for the perpetrator of the crimes that have been

Sudan is just one of many urgent issues tabled for discussion at the AU
summit of heads of state beginning Feb. 1. The summit's theme is
"Infrastructure Development in Africa", but other matters of concern include
continued conflict in Somalia and the DRC, coups in Mauritania and
Guinea-Conakry within the last six months and the humanitarian crisis and
political deadlock in Zimbabwe.


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