Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), says that Sudanese President Omer Al Bashir will face justice regardless of his election win last month. In an interview with Radio Dabanga broadcast on Monday, he said “nothing changed” in regards to the warrant outstanding for the arrest of the Sudanese leader. “We respect political processes, we respect elections, but there is another warrant pending on him and nothing changed,” said Ocampo.
The Pre-Trial Chamber 1 of the ICC issued the arrest warrant on 4 March 2009. Bashir is indicted for seven criminal offenses comprising five counts of crimes against humanity (murder, extermination, forcible transfer, torture and rape) and two counts of war crimes (intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population and pillaging). The court initially declined to confirm a charge of genocide against Bashir but then an appeals judge ruled that the Pre-Trial Chamber had to reconsider whether to indict Bashir on the genocide charge. Ocampo said that he is confident of his case for the genocide charge. But he said he does not know how long the judges will take to decide the matter.
President Bashir won election last month with 68 percent of votes cast. But Ocampo said that this does not matter: “We are a judicial institution, another warrant is pending on President Bashir – he shall be arrested… In the court, nothing changed. People can be elected but if they commit a crime, they’re accountable before the judges.” Ocampo said that the prosecution has collected more than 100 statements as evidence and is ready to go to trial. “So let Bashir come and we will discuss our evidence. And he will have the opportunity to cross-examine our witnesses to see if they are lying or not.”
Ocampo in 2005 launched his investigation of crimes committed in Darfur based on a referral by the UN Security Council. He initially sought and was granted arrest warrants against militia leader Ali Kushayb and former Minister of State for the Interior Ahmed Harun. But Ocampo now says that Sudan is “non-cooperating” with these warrants. Since the issuance of the warrants, the government of Sudan has protected the two men. Ahmed Harun received appointments to serve as Minister of State for Humanitarian Affairs and later as Governor of South Kordofan. So the ICC prosecutor last month asked a chamber of three judges to make a finding of non-cooperation against the government of Sudan. The ruling would be communicated to the UN Security Council.
Asked about this request, Ocampo explained that Sudan has shown lack of respect for the ICC and for the UN Security Council resolution 1593. Ocampo wants the Sudanese government to hand over its sitting Head of State: “The government of Sudan is bigger than individuals… that’s the point. Before the UN, it’s about the government of Sudan. They have to cooperate with the UN Security Council resolution. They have to respect the Security Council resolution.”
“The Sudanese are challenging the authority of the Security Council, so they [the Security Council members] have to re-establish their authority.”
Ocampo possibly to pursue other commanders in Haskanita case
ICC judges recently ruled that there is not enough evidence to bring Darfuri rebel leader Idriss Abu Garda to trial for a deadly attack on African Union peacekeepers in Haskanita in 2007. The judges of Pre-Trial Chamber 1 on 23 April rejected the prosecutor’s appeal to reconsider the charges against Abu Garda. However, the Office of the Prosecutor is analyzing whether to pursue criminal indictments against other rebel commanders. Ocampo: “I always say, attacking peacekeepers is a way to attack citizens. That’s why, even [though] the numbers of peacekeepers killed were not so high, the numbers of civilians and unprotected were high. That’s why we did the case. I believe that our case is strong; we disagree with the judges’ decision and we appeal and we are still proceeding, we are still planning how to proceed against other commanders and Abu Garda himself.”
“We will see how to proceed before the same chamber. But also there are other commanders involved. So we are analyzing if we first proceed with the other commanders and then to Abu Garda again, or no. We will see. We respect the court’s decision but we believe it is wrong.” Ocampo was speaking Thursday, 6 May in The Hague, Netherlands.