ICC: Failure to arrest Sudan's president undermines court

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Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir. (File: AFP)
Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir. (File: AFP)

New York - The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on Tuesday accused some of its members, including Jordan, Uganda and Chad, of undermining the tribunal's "reputation and credibility" by refusing to arrest Sudan's president to face charges of genocide in his country's Darfur region.

Fatou Bensouda also criticised the UN Security Council, saying it has failed to take action against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and others accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur during fighting since 2003 or to act against nations that fail to carry out arrests.

She said the court's judges have ruled that the failure of ICC members to apprehend al-Bashir and others sought by the tribunal clearly violates the Rome Statute that established the ICC.

Bensouda said Monday's court decision that Jordan failed to comply with its obligation as an ICC member to arrest al-Bashir in late March underscored the requirement of the 123 countries that are parties to the Rome Statute to arrest and hand over all those sought by the tribunal. It found that al-Bashir's immunity as a head of state under customary international law does not bar ICC parties from executing an arrest warrant and decided to refer Jordan's noncompliance to the Security Council and the assembly of the 123 ICC parties, which is currently meeting at UN headquarters in New York.

They are 'safe'

Bensouda criticized the Security Council for refusing to take action on previous referrals and requests, saying this "only serves to embolden others" to invite al-Bashir to their countries. They are "safe in the knowledge that there will be no consequences from this council for such breaches", she said.

In addition to citing the Sudanese president's visit to Jordan, she noted his recent stops in Uganda and Chad. Uganda hosted al-Bashir in mid-November, even after being referred to the council in July 2016 for its failure to arrest him during a May 2016 visit, Bensouda said. Chad hosted al-Bashir during the first week of December, also after being referred to the council over previous visits in December 2011 and March 2013, she said.

Bensouda noted that al-Bashir also visited Russia, which is not a party to the ICC, on November 20.

All these visits "underscore the detrimental impact on the court's reputation and credibility in the eyes of victims who have pinned so much hope on the court to deliver justice for their suffering," the prosecutor said.

She called on the council "to prioritise action" on the outstanding arrest warrants and stressed that the ICC will continue efforts to bring those accused of war crimes to justice.

"I hope there will be solace in knowing that as history of international criminal justice has often demonstrated in practice, time is not on the side of perpetrators, but the victims and the cause of justice," Bensouda said.

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