Arab bodies, Sudan slam ICC allegation against Sudanese president

2008-07-15 06:53:06 GMT       2008-07-15 14:53:06 (Beijing Time)       Xinhua English

CAIRO, July 14 (Xinhua) -- Various Arab organizations and Sudan have criticized the call of an International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for alleged war crimes in Darfur, while Arab foreign ministers are seeking to coordinate stance in this regard.

On Monday, the Interim Arab Parliament (IAP) criticized the ICC move to issue an arrest warrant against al-Bashir, saying it is a shame to see the ICC trying to prosecute a leader of an Arab country.

The IAP is "amazed and dismayed" by reports of the ICC move, which is stirring Arab nations' concern, head of the parliament Mohamed Jassem al-Saqr said in a statement.

The ICC move raises the fear that the international court could become a tool of major world powers to intimidate smaller countries, al-Saqr was quoted by the Egyptian MENA news agency as saying.

According to earlier reports, ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo on Monday formally requested the arrest warrant against al-Bashir, charging him of war crimes, including genocide, in the western Sudanese region of Darfur.

Moreno-Ocampo said there were reasonable grounds to believe that al-Bashir bears criminal responsibility in relation to 10 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

"Al-Bashir masterminded and implemented a plan to destroy in substantial part the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa groups, on account of their ethnicity," the prosecutor claimed, adding members of the three groups were historically influential in Darfur and engaged in a rebellion for fear of marginalization.

The prosecution also charged al-Bashir with crimes against humanity and war crimes including murder, extermination, forcible transfer of civilians, torture and rape.

It was the first time that the Hague-based ICC was asked to charge a sitting head of state, a move decried by Khartoum as undermining peace efforts in the region.

At the request of Sudan, the Cairo-based Arab League (AL) has agreed to hold an emergency foreign ministers' meeting on July 19 to coordinate Arab stance on the disputes between Sudan and the ICC.

The meeting will be held in response to the request by Sudan that was approved by Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Libya and the Palestinian National Authority, head of AL Secretary General Amr Moussa's office Hisham Yousef said Monday.

Samir Hosni, director of the Arab-African Cooperation Department of the pan-Arab bloc, said Monday that Moussa has been consulting with the Arab states for the preparation of the meeting.

Earlier on Sunday, the Arab Lawyers Union strongly slammed the ICC for its expected move to issue the arrest warrant against al-Bashir.

The ICC decision to charge al-Bashir with war crimes in Darfur is "a flagrant violation of international law, norms and human rights," the Arab Lawyers Union said in a statement.

The union also criticized the United States for its alleged role behind the ICC move, saying it's a U.S. decision to punish al-Bashir for "his firm stand in defense of Sudan's just causes."

The United States is in an attempt to drag the ICC into a fight against al-Bashir, which contradicts the aim of the international court, said the statement.

However, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Friday that the United States does not have anything to do with the ICC.

On Monday, the White House said that the United States will monitor the situation as the ICC prosecutor is seeking the arrest of al-Bashir on charges of war crimes.

"We urge all sides to remain calm. We will monitor the situation in The Hague and review what the prosecutor has requested, but we are not a part of the ICC," said U.S. National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe.

The ICC move also stirred widespread concerns and condemns in Sudan. The Sudanese government has reiterated that it does not recognize the ICC and would refuse any decision or memorandum delivered by the court.

Sudan is not a party to the Rome Treaty establishing the ICC, the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal to try persons accused of the most serious crimes of international concern, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

But the UN Security Council decided in March 2005 to refer the Darfur situation to the ICC, a decision opposed by Sudan, which insisted on its own prosecution.

Sudan's Cabinet reiterated on Sunday that it does not recognize the ICC and will refuse any decision or memorandum delivered by the court.

According to Sudanese official news agency SUNA, Sudanese Council of the States on Monday strongly denounced at an extraordinary meeting of Committee of the Council's Affairs the ICC move to indict Sudan's senior officials.

In the same day, Sudanese Vice President Ali Othman Mohammed Taha told a press conference that the ICC move is a politically-motivated one against Sudan instead of a legal one.

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