Friday, December 5, 2008

ICC Faces Deferral of al-Bashir Prosecution

On December 3, 2008, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Luis Moreno-Ocampo briefed the 15-member United Nations Security Council on the situation in Darfur and urged the members to resist calls to defer investigation and prosecution of Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir under Article 16 of the Rome Statute. ICC Judges are expected to rule within a month whether to issue an arrest warrant for al-Bashir, as requested by Moreno-Ocampo in July of this year. The United States, however, has promised to block any delay absent significant humanitarian assurances.

Article 16 provides little guidance on the conditions that warrant such a deferral, but merely states, "No investigation or prosecution may be commenced or proceeded with under this Statute for a period of 12 months after the Security Council, in a resolution adopted under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, has requested the Court to that effect; that request may be renewed by the Council under the same conditions." According to a Washington Post article, al-Bashir has persuaded the Arab League and the African Union to invoke Article 16. The Sudan Tribune reported in August 2008 that China and Russia would support such a deferral.

Moreno-Ocampo has accused al-Bashir of massive attacks against Darfur's ethnic Fur, Masalit, and Zaghawa, resulting in 35,000 deaths and 2.5 million displaced individuals. In his pleas to the Security Council, Moreno-Ocampo emphasized al-Bashir's role in ordering and then covering up these crimes. According to Moreno-Ocampo, al-Bashir used diplomacy to protect himself and other criminals, promising to dismantle Janjaweed militias and then failing to uphold that promise for the reserve forces; promising justice and then engaging in torture against those who could be witnesses; and promising ceasefires and then bombing schools. Moreno-Ocampo emphasized that "the international community cannot conceal [al Bashir's] crimes [genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes]."

For more information, see "Today's News: ICC Prosecutor says ruling on President Omar Al Bashir is imminent" and other links at the United Nations Radio web site, as well as "Sudan's Omar al-Bashir: a useful war criminal."

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