Friday, March 6, 2009

Sudan: Archbishop Tutu Welcomes Arrest Warrant for Al-Bashir

4 March 2009

New York — South African anti-apartheid crusader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu is looking forward to the issuance of a warrant by the International Criminal Court for the arrest of Sudan's president.

The ICC was expected to make a decision on the matter on Wednesday.

At the same time, the ICC has said if it issues a warrant against President Omar al-Bashir, he would be arrested when he leaves the country.

"As soon as Bashir flies outside of Sudan he could be arrested," ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo, who is seeking to prosecute al-Bashir on charges of war crimes and genocide in Darfur, told the Arabic-language news network Al Jazeera on Tuesday. "There is no immunity from international law."

Writing in the New York Times, Archbishop Tutu said an arrest warrant for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir would be "an extraordinary moment for the people of Sudan."

He described the African leaders' opposition to the ICC indictment of Bashir as shameful.

"Because the victims in Sudan are African, African leaders should be the staunchest supporters of efforts to see perpetrators brought to account. Yet, rather than stand by those who have suffered in Darfur, African leaders have so far rallied behind the man responsible for turning that corner of Africa into a graveyard."

In response to news last July that Moreno-Ocampo, was seeking an arrest warrant for President Bashir for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, the African Union issued a communiqué to the United Nations Security Council asking it to suspend the court's proceedings.

"Rather than condemn the genocide in Darfur, the organization chose to underscore its concern that African leaders are being unfairly singled out and to support President Bashir's effort to delay court proceedings," Archbishop Tutu said.

More recently, the Group of 77, an influential organization at the UN consisting of 130 developing states and including nearly every African country, gave Sudan its chairmanship. The victory came after African members endorsed Sudan's candidacy in spite of the imminent criminal charges against its president.

"I regret that the charges against President Bashir are being used to stir up the sentiment that the justice system ­ and in particular, the international court ­ is biased against Africa. Justice is in the interest of victims, and the victims of these crimes are African. To imply that the prosecution is a plot by the West is demeaning to Africans and understates the commitment to justice we have seen across the continent," the archbishop said.

He noted that more than 20 African countries were among the founders of the International Criminal Court, and of the 108 nations that joined the court, 30 are in Africa.

"That the court's four active investigations are all in Africa is not because of prosecutorial prejudice - it is because three of the countries involved (Central African Republic, Congo and Uganda) themselves requested that the prosecutor intervene. Only the Darfur case was referred to the prosecutor by the Security Council."

Tutu also dismissed the argument by some African leaders that the ICC action will impede efforts to promote peace in Darfur, saying that there can be no real peace and security until justice is enjoyed by the inhabitants of the land.

"The issuance of an arrest warrant for President Bashir would be an extraordinary moment for the people of Sudan - and for those around the world who have come to doubt that powerful people and governments can be called to account for inhumane acts. African leaders should support this historic occasion, not work to subvert it."

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