Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

Darfur: Is the war over or is the world losing interest?

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A girl holds her sleeping brother in Zam Zam camp in Darfur, Sudan in June 2008. REUTERS/Louis CharbonneauIt’s more than six years since mostly non-Arab rebels in Sudan’s western Darfur region revolted after accusing Khartoum of neglecting their remote corner of Africa’s biggest country. Khartoum’s U.N. ambassador, Abdalmahmoud Abdalhaleem, declared in New York this week that the “war in Darfur is over.”

But Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, disagrees. Although levels of violence in Darfur have fallen, he told the Security Council that crimes “are continuing.” He said those crimes include indiscriminate bombings of civilians, creation of inhumane conditions for displaced people in order to “exterminate” them, rapes and sexual violence, and the use of child soldiers.

The ICC has already issued arrest warrants for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, another government official and a former Janjaweed militia leader for war crimes in a government-led counter-insurgency campaign that drove more than 2 million from their homes. The United Nations says as many as 300,000 people have died since the conflict erupted in 2003, but Khartoum rejects that figure.

The ICC has also charged three rebels in connection with an attack on African Union peacekeepers in 2007. One rebel showed up in The Hague to defend himself but Bashir and the others remain at large. Western diplomats say Bashir’s arrest is not a top priority now since it could destroy the stalled Darfur peace process. Khartoum refuses to cooperate with the ICC and its chief prosecutor, whom Abdalhaleem branded a “mercenary of death and destruction.” (Moreno-Ocampo countered by declaring that Sudanese officials who deny that crimes were committed in Darfur could themselves face prosecution.)

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his latest report to the Security Council that U.N./African Union peacekeepers in Darfur were being harassed and threatened by Sudanese government forces and rebels. (As if to illustrate the point, two Rwandan peacekeepers were shot dead in an ambush in North Darfur on Friday.) Ban said that civilians in Darfur remain at risk of violence as the Sudanese military continues to clash with rebel groups. The world body has also warned that the population of Darfur may be left out of next year’s nationwide elections, the first in 24 years, due to mass displacement of the population and volatile security.

But Khartoum and the rebels determined to topple Bashir’s government may not be the only problem. The former head of a U.N. panel charged with investigating violations of a 2005 arms embargo for Darfur accused the United States and other members of the Security Council of “selling out” the Darfur sanctions.

from Africa News blog:

Will Bashir warrant worsen war?

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Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has seen off other challenges in almost 20 years in power and there is no sign that he is going to give in to the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

Some supporters of the court's move hope it will eventually persuade Sudan's politicians to hand over their leader in a palace coup, end the festering conflict in Darfur and do more to repair relations with the West.

from Africa News blog:

Putting Africa on trial?

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Look down the list of the cases the International Criminal Court is pursuing – Congo, Central African Republic, Darfur, Uganda – and it doesn’t take long to spot the connection.

Of the dozen arrest warrants the court has issued, all have been against African rebels or officials. On Monday, the court begins its first trial - of Thomas Lubanga, accused of recruiting child soldiers to wage a gruesome ethnic war in northeastern Congo. Earlier this month, former Congolese rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba was in court for a decision on whether to confirm charges of ordering mass rape to terrorise civilians in the Central African Republic.

from Africa News blog:

How serious is Sudan’s Darfur ceasefire?

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Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir was in a jubilant mood when he announced to crowds of supporters that he was declaring a ceasefire in Darfur.

From his body language, you might have thought he had already ended the crisis and achieved his goal of avoiding a possible indictment by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in Darfur.

France and Darfur: Dirty deals over genocide or pragmatism for peace?

Sarkozy at U.N. General Assembly 

French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced that if Sudan changes its behavior and actively supports growing international calls for peace in Darfur, Paris would back suspending any indictments the International Criminal Court (ICC) issues against Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

Sarkozy made clear there would be strings attached.  In a speech to the U.N. General Assembly, the French leader said Sudan would have to “radically” alter its policy towards Darfur, where international experts say at least 200,000 people have died since 2003. It would have to remove a cabinet minister indicted for war crimes in Darfur from the Khartoum government and stop delaying the deployment of international peacekeepers.

Bashir’s challenge to the ICC – can the court respond?

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bashir-in-istanbul.jpgInternational prosecutors’ pursuit of Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for alleged genocide has not curtailed his travel schedule. He is in Turkey this week, defiant and saying the move by the International Criminal Court has backfired — his hold on power is stronger than ever.

Bashir gave an exclusive interview to Reuters, his first since ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said he was seeking a warrant for his arrest.

Turn of the screwdriver – genocide, justice or peace for Darfur?

Girl at Zam Zam camp in North Darfur holds her sleeping brother

Sudan’s ambassador to the United Nations Abdalmahmoud Abdalhaleem says Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, is “a screwdriver in the workshop of double standards” for seeking to prosecute the president of Sudan, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, for genocide in Darfur.  He rejects the term genocide and says the prosecutor is unfairly picking on Africa’s largest country and ignoring war crimes elsewhere.

Moreno-Ocampo accuses Bashir of launching a genocide campaign in 2003 that was intended to wipe out three ethnic groups in Darfur, a desolate and remote region of western Sudan where oil was discovered in 2005. He says the Sudanese leader used mass murder, rape, deportation and “slow death” by starvation and disease to kill tens of thousands in Darfur.  Moreno-Ocampo wants the ICC judges to issue an international arrest warrant for Bashir.

Does the West still matter for Africa?

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First on Zimbabwe, now on Darfur, Western countries have lost out at the U.N. Security Council to African states backed by China and Russia.

A Western attempt to get sanctions imposed on Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s government flopped on July 11. Three weeks later, when it came to renewing the mandate of peacekeepers in Darfur, Western countries bowed to demands to include wording that made clear the council would be ready to freeze any International Criminal Court indictment of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for genocide. The United States abstained, but that made no difference to the vote.

Does Karadzic detention give Bashir cause for concern?

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  An armed policeman stands guard as Karadzic is brought to The Hague                                                                                                                               

      The extradition of former Bosnian Serb
leader Radovan Karadzic on Wednesday to
face genocide charges in The Hague sends
a signal that the international community
means business in bringing fugitives to
justice. 
    Reinforcing the same message, 
Serge Brammertz, chief prosecutor
of the International Criminal Tribunal
for the former Yugoslavia, called again
for the arrest of Bosnian Serb wartime
commander Ratko Mladic. Like Karadzic,
Mladic is accused of  genocide over the
43-month siege of Sarajevo and the 1995
massacre of some 8,000 Muslims at
Srebrenica.

Update-Is ICC setting its sights too high in Sudan?

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bashir1.jpgOn Friday I wrote that the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor was readying a genocide charge and arrest warrant for Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.  It came to pass today. A defiant Khartoum has said it will not bend to the court and has warned of an eruption of violence; the opposition too has said the warrant could threaten peace. Is this a case of justice versus peace and do the two have to be irreconcilable?

Here’s Friday’s blog:

BashirProsecutors at the International Criminal Court are readying arrest warrants for senior Sudanese officials, possibly even President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, sources at The Hague court have told Reuters. The Washington Post said it understood Bashir would face charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.

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