AU: Suspend indictment against Sudan president

January 31, 2009 at 12:52 pm | Posted in Africa | Leave a comment
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ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia – The African Union urged the International Criminal Court Friday to suspend its indictment of Sudan’s president on genocide charges, saying it could jeopardize any peace process in Darfur.

The court’s chief prosecutor has accused Omar al-Bashir of masterminding attempts to wipe out African tribes in western Sudan’s Darfur region with a campaign of murder, rape and deportation.

The ICC still must decide whether to issue a warrant for al-Bashir. There have been no rulings on the warrant yet and a court decision is expected early this year. The UN has the power to grant a one-year suspension.

Up to 300,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been forced from their homes in five years of fighting in Darfur. Al-Bashir is also accused of unleashing militia allied with the government to target civilians, rather than rebels, in villages and camps.

The head of the AU Peace and Security Council said Friday that African foreign ministers unanimously supported delaying the indictment process for a year so officials can negotiate peace in Darfur.

“There is a solidarity shown toward the president of Sudan, unanimously,” Ramtane Lamamra said after the closed-door session.

Sudanese officials were not available for comment Friday.

Reed Brody, a Brussels-based lawyer with Human Rights Watch said the AU’s argument that Bashir’s arrest would imperil the peace process had one fatal flaw. “What peace process?” he said. “We don’t see an effective peace process happening at the moment.”

The Sudanese government does not recognize the court, and has refused to turn over any suspects to face international justice. Al-Bashir is the first sitting head of state named as a war crimes suspect by the court’s prosecutors.

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