[dehai-news] (MediaLine) Eritrea: ICC Made Grave Mistake with Al-Bashir Indictment

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From: Biniam Tekle (biniamt@dehai.org)
Date: Thu Mar 26 2009 - 07:35:14 EST

Eritrea: ICC Made Grave Mistake with Al-Bashir Indictment
Written by Rachelle Kliger
Published Thursday, March 26, 2009

The International Criminal Court made a grave mistake in issuing an
indictment against Sudanese President ‘Umar Al-Bashir earlier this month, an
Eritrean official said.

The move will not only do nothing to solve the conflict in Darfur, but will
push Al-Bashir’s supporters to more extremist position, the official told
The Media Line on condition of anonymity.

“The main issue in Sudan is not Al-Bashir. The main issue is Darfur and
indicting Al-Bashir is an insult to all those people who are being killed,
displaced and maimed,” he said.

The ICC issued the arrest warrant against Al-Bashir on March 4, on counts of
war crimes and crimes against humanity in the western Darfur province, where
a conflict has been raging for six years.

Al-Bashir made Eritrea the destination of his first excursion out of Sudan
since the indictment when he traveled there on Monday.

Eritrea, a neighbor of Sudan, is an international pariah and would under no
circumstances arrest and extradite Al-Bashir.

It is understood that the excursion was symbolic to demonstrate Khartoum’s
defiance in face of the ICC action.

Al-Bashir also traveled to Egypt on Wednesday where he was welcomed by
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Only the 108 countries that are party to the Rome Statute are obliged to
arrest Al-Bashir if he sets foot on their territory.

It is still uncertain whether Al-Bashir will be heading for Qatar for an
Arab League meeting next week. Qatar is not a signatory to the statute and
is therefore not legally obligated to arrest the president.

However, there are concerns that Al-Bashir’s plane will be intercepted and
he will be taken to another country and extradited.

A group of clerics issued a fatwa, or religious decree, this week banning
him from traveling to Doha for the summit.

More than 200,000 people have been killed in the western Darfur province
since the conflict there erupted in 2003 between local rebels and
government-backed forces.

The Eritrean official said Eritrea was pressuring Khartoum to end the
conflict in Darfur.

Eritrea’s position is that the ICC ruling is problematic since it was made
against a sitting president, rather than waiting for him to end his term. If
he were no longer president, the ruling would have been more beneficial, the
official said.

In a separate development, it was reported that Israel was behind the
bombing of an arms convoy in Sudan in late January.

According to the CBS report, Israeli aircraft bombed a 17-truck convoy,
killing 39 people and destroying the trucks.

It was believed the weapons were destined for Palestinians in the
Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

Khartoum is being quiet on the matter, although a government minister did
mention on Wednesday that a “major power” bombed trucks carrying arms.

The U.S. and Israel signed an agreement in January calling for international
efforts to stop smuggling of weapons into Gaza. Jerusalem and Washington are
particularly concerned about weapons being smuggled from Iran, a supporter
of Hamas.

Khartoum says it has no information to offer regarding the strike. Pressed
by reporters in Egypt to offer a comment, Sudan’s foreign minister, Deng
Alor, simply denied knowledge of the incident.

Israel is also refusing to comment on the attack.

Earlier this month reports in Egypt suggested American planes had flown from
the United States Air Force base in nearby Djibouti and fired missiles at
the convoy.

Reports suggest the trucks were transporting arms from Iran to Hamas in the
Gaza Strip for use against Israel.

The vehicles were probably meant to carry their cargo through Sudan to Port
Sudan on the Red Sea, to be shipped from there to the Sinai Peninsula, a
desert with little in the way of security. Sinai abuts the Gaza Strip, where
the arms could have been transferred via smuggling tunnels.

This story took place as the international community was promising Israel it
would do what it could to stem the arms flow into Gaza. Western leaders
hoped that would help Israel feel it was less imperative to launch attacks
on Gaza.

On January 16, then U.S. secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, signed a
Memorandum of Understanding with her Israeli counterpart, Tzipi Livni,
committing the U.S. to help fight to flow of arms and materiel into Gaza.
The European Union decided not to follow suit, saying it was already on

Then, on March 13, nine NATO members announced they would join forces to
combat the flow of arms. The U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, France,
Germany, Italy, Holland, Denmark and Norway will share intelligence and use
law enforcement to block shipments by land and sea.

The cargo of a Cypriot-flagged ship, the Monchegorsk, is currently being
held under lock and key, after it was intercepted carrying Iranian arms. The
ship’s final destination was said to be Syria.

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