ICC decision “regrettable”: SA

South Africa says the decision of the International Criminal Court – which it helped create – to issue an arrest warrant against the Sudanese strongman President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is “regrettable”.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma in a statement adds that “SA has never countenanced any acts of impunity.
“However, SA supported the decision of the African Union (AU) to defer the issuing of the warrant of arrest against President Al-Bashir by a year to give the peace processes in the Sudan a chance.”
“In this regard and in pursuance of this objective, the AU Summit held in Addis Ababa recently appointed South Africa’s former President Thabo Mbeki to intercede between the ICC and the Sudan” continued Dlamini Zuma.
“In the light of the decision of the ICC on Wednesday, South Africa concurs with the African Union’s initial response that the ICC’s decision is regrettable as it will impact negatively on the current peace processes in the Sudan.
“Nonetheless, South Africa will have to await further discussions within the confines of the African Union which will inform the country’s own comprehensive response to these developments.
Reuters adds the warrant is the first issued against a sitting head of state by the Hague-based ICC and the third since World War Two (WW2), following in the wake of Liberia’s Charles Taylor and Yugoslavia’s Slobodan Milosevic. Croatian strongman Franjo Tuđman died before he could be indicted. After WW2 Nazi ReichspräsidentGrand Admiral Karl Dönitz – Adolf Hitler`s successor as head of state, was jailed for ten years and Japanese Prime Minister Hideki Tōjō was hanged.    
Al-Bashir`s indictment stops short of including a count of genocide over a conflict that United Nations officials say has killed as many as 300 000 people since 2003.

International reaction to yesterday`s decision has been mixed. The United States welcomed the action but China urged the UN Security Council to heed calls from African and Arab countries and suspend the case against Bashir.

The ICC, set up in 2002, indicted Bashir on seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, which included murder, rape and torture. The three-judge panel said it had insufficient grounds for genocide.
“His victims are the very civilians that he as a president was supposed to protect,” ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told reporters, adding that Sudan was obliged to execute the warrant. “It could be in two months or two years, but he will face justice.”

Hundreds of demonstrators protested against the arrest warrant in central Khartoum. Bashir, 65, has dismissed the allegations made by the ICC, the world’s first permanent court for prosecuting war crimes, as part of a Western conspiracy.
“It is a flawed decision,” said Sudanese presidential spokesman Mahjoub Fadul. “We do not recognise it.”

Hours after the warrant was issued, Sudan revoked the licences of at least six foreign aid agencies, including Oxfam, giving no reason for the decision, aid officials said. “This will have a major impact on humanitarian work in Darfur,” said one aid official.

UN and other agencies are running the world’s largest humanitarian operation in Darfur, a mainly desert region in western Sudan. UN officials say up to 300 000 have been killed there, while Khartoum says 10 000 have died.

A further 2.7 million people are estimated to have been uprooted by the conflict, which began when mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms against the government in 2003.

Several hundred SA soldiers and police are part of the hybrid UN-AU peacekeeping force there. 

UN officials said hundreds of government troops paraded through the regional capital El Fasher in a show of strength.

In Qatar

Sudan’s under-secretary of foreign affairs, Mutrif Siddiq, said Bashir planned to attend an Arab summit in Qatar later this month despite the warrant.

The ICC said it expected enforcement of the arrest warrant by countries party to the Rome Statute – including SA – that set up the court and United Nations member nations.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters: “Governments and individuals who either conduct or condone atrocities of any kind, as we have seen year after year in Sudan, have to be held accountable.”

China, the African Union and the Arab League suggested an indictment could destabilise the region, worsen the Darfur conflict and threaten a troubled peace deal between north Sudan and the semi-autonomous south — potentially rich in oil.
“We hope that the Security Council will respect and heed the calls from the African Union, Arab League and non-aligned movement … and request that the International Criminal Court suspend trying this case,” said a Chinese government statement.

Chinese companies are major investors in Sudan’s oil industry, and Beijing — a permanent member of the Security Council with veto power — has also sent peacekeepers to Darfur.

The Arab League said it would send a delegation to the UN Security Council to ask for a delay in implementing the warrant.

Violence has risen in Darfur in recent months, and Sudanese government officials expect rebels to step up their attacks.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Sudan to cooperate with the court. “The United Nations will continue to conduct its vital peacekeeping, humanitarian, human rights and development operations and activities in Sudan,” said a statement.

The ICC said the non-inclusion of a genocide charge could change “if additional evidence is gathered by the prosecution”.

Aid workers said Sudanese officials told them to pull some staff out of parts of Darfur earlier this week because the humanitarian workers might be targeted.
“Khartoum is going to react violently against Darfur’s population. And we are ready to defend our people,” said Ahmed Abdel Shafie, leader of a rebel Sudan Liberation Army.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit called on the UN Security Council to suspend Bashir’s arrest warrant, but Libyan envoy Ibrahim Dabbashi said before the ICC announcement there were no plans for an immediate council meeting.

The council has the power to defer ICC proceedings for up to one year at a time.