On Thursday, 12 February, the International Criminal Court (ICC) informed the media that no decision had yet been taken by the Pre-Trial Chamber on last year’s application of Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo for an arrest warrant against the Sudanese President, Omar Hassan al-Bashir. The statement came in reaction to an article in the New York Times on Wednesday that the ICC had actually decided to issue the arrest warrant for al –Bashir.
Last week the African Union and the Sudanese ambassador to the United Nations (UN) requested the UN Security Council (SC) to delay the charges against the Sudanese President for alleged crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Darfur. Both requested the SC to invoke Article 16 of the Rome Statute, which allows the SC to pass a resolution under chapter VII of the UN Charter that would suspend proceedings against al-Bashir for 12 months.
The African Union expressed its concern that an indictment of the Sudanese President would pose a threat to the peace process in Sudan. In November 2008 al-Bashir agreed to an unconditional cease-fire in Darfur. In the recent past, however, a majority of SC members have argued that, in view of the continuing violence, the case should go forward. The resolution for which the African Union is asking would require an affirmative vote of at least 9 of the 15 members including the 5 permanent members.
At a press conference last Tuesday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated that whatever decision the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber might take “it will be very important for President Bashir and the Sudanese Government to react very responsibly and ensure the safety and security of the United Nations peacekeepers, and protect the human rights of all the population there, and also faithfully implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. And he should fully cooperate with whatever decisions that the ICC makes. This is a very important fundamental principle that he should take.”