UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Sudan's refusal to arrest President Omar al-Bashir and three others accused of war crimes in Darfur is "a direct challenge" to the U.N. Security Council, and it should now consider asking all countries and regional organizations to carry out the arrests, the International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor said Tuesday.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo conceded that council discussions of other possibilities to arrest the four Sudanese, including seeking help from member states and regional bodies, "will be problematic."
"But the victims will receive a clear message: They are not ignored," he said. "And the perpetrators will receive a clear message: There will be no impunity."
The court, set up in 2002 to prosecute the most senior perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes from nations that cannot or will not put them on trial, has no police force of its own to arrest suspects. More than 100 countries that are parties to the Rome statute are required to arrest those sought by the tribunal — but al-Bashir has traveled to friendly nations without being detained.
Darfur was plunged into turmoil in 2003, when ethnic African rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated Sudanese government, whom they accused of discrimination. The Khartoum government is accused of retaliating by unleashing Arab militias on civilians — a charge the government denies. The U.N. estimates 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million have been displaced in the conflict.
The Security Council authorized the court to investigate atrocities in Darfur in 2005, and it has issued an arrest warrant for the Sudanese president for allegedly orchestrating genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur. South Kordofan Gov. Ahmed Harun, militia leader Ali Kushayb and Defense Minister Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein are accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Sudan's U.N. Ambassador Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman condemned and denounced "in the strongest terms" Moreno-Ocampo's call for the Security Council to consider other proposals to carry out the arrests. He accused the prosecutor of trying to incite the council against Sudan when it is trying to restore peace to Darfur, and he argued that the International Criminal Court has no jurisdiction in the vast western region.
While Sudan is not a party to the Rome statute that established the tribunal, Moreno-Ocampo has jurisdiction in Darfur because the Security Council asked him to investigate atrocities there.
In his briefing to the council, Moreno-Ocampo noted that at a previous briefing Sudan challenged the evidence against the accused. He said his office is prepared to discuss the evidence "in the courtroom before the judges."