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Africa
Bashir attacks West over warrant
Sudan's president says international court's indictment of him is a colonialist plot.
Last Modified: 05 Mar 2009 14:14 GMT

Al-Bashir hit out at the West as he addressed
crowds of supporters in Khartoum [AFP]

Sudan's president has angrily rejected a warrant for his arrest on charges of war crimes, issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

A defiant Omar al-Bashir told thousands of his supporters gathered in Khartoum on Thursday that Sudan was being targeted by Western powers and that the ICC was a tool of colonialists after Sudan's oil.

"The true criminals are the leaders of the United States and Europe," al-Bashir, brandishing a cane, told the roaring crowd outside the Republican Palace.

"We have refused to kneel to colonialism, that is why Sudan has been targeted ... because we only kneel to God."

"Sudan represents the voice that says 'no' to all attempts of domination. In the past we said no to occupation ... and we succeeded in throwing the occupiers out of Sudan."

Protesters carried banners branding Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the ICC's chief prosecutor, a criminal.

Cheers of "We are ready to protect religion!" and "Down, down USA!" interrupted al-Bashir's speech.

'Regrettable' decision

The ICC indicted al-Bashir on Wednesday on seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, which included murder, rape and torture.

The three-judge panel said it had insufficient grounds to consider charges of genocide, though the ICC said the non-inclusion of a genocide charge could change "if additional evidence is gathered by the prosecution".

In depth

 Profile: Omar al-Bashir 
 Interview: Moreno-Ocampo
 Timeline: Darfur crisis 
 
Human rights lost in Darfur
 Peace deals in 'jeopardy'
 Video: Warrant hailed
 Your Views: What does the arrest warrant against al-Bashir mean for Sudan?

But international response to the ICC's decision has been mixed.

While the US has hailed the court's decision, South Africa called it "regrettable" and others echoed Pretoria's warning that al-Bashir's arrest could damage peace negotiations.

"South Africa concurs with the African Union's initial response that the ICC's decision is regrettable as it will impact negatively on the current peace processes in the Sudan," Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, South Africa's foreign minister, said.

Earlier China, which buys the majority of Sudan's oil and is one of the country's most important trading partners, voiced similar concerns.

"China expresses its regret and worry over the arrest warrant for the Sudan president issued by the International Criminal Court," Qin Gang, China's foreign ministry spokesman, said in a statement on the ministry's website.

"China is opposed to any action that could interfere with the peaceful situation in Darfur and Sudan."

'Neo-colonialist policy'

The US administration, which has imposed sanctions against Sudan, welcomed the ICC's decision and the UK and France have also been in favour of the warrant.

The EU has also urged Khartoum to fully co-operate with the ICC.

But the support of Western nations has added fuel to the fire of those who see the ICC's decision as "neo-colonialist".

"They do not want Sudan ... to become stable," Mustafa Osman Ismail, an adviser to al-Bashir, said.

The ICC indicted al-Bashir on seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity [EPA] 
"The court is only one mechanism of neo-colonialist policy used by the West against free and independent countries."

Sudan's UN envoy said the government will drop its campaign to have the UN Security Council delay the al-Bashir's prosecution for a year and would instead demand that the "criminal plot against our country" be stopped.

Amr el-Kahky, Al Jazeera's correspondent, reporting from Khartoum, said that many in Sudan felt the ICC decision threatened the peace process.

"According to the people ... it is doing more harm than good," he said.

"They say it is de-railing and threatening the peace process between the Sudanese government and the rebels in Darfur on the one hand and ... [that] the warrant comes at a very bad time, especially after the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Justice and Equality Movement [JEM], the biggest rebel faction in Darfur, and the Sudanese Government in the Qatari capital, Doha."

But inside Sudan, JEM offered some support for the ICC's arrest warrant.

"This decision will create huge transformation in Sudan," Ibrahim Khalil, leader of the Justice and Equality Movement, told Al Jazeera.

"We expect Bashir to refuse attending the trail in person, as is the case with all war criminals, but then he will lose eligibility to govern and legitimacy and therefore his rule will be illegitimate."

OIC condemnation

The Organisation of Islamic Conference also condemned the decision, with Ekmeleddine Ihsanoglu, its secretary-general, saying that the warrant might negatively affect efforts to solve the crisis in Darfur and could threaten stability in Sudan and the whole region.

The Arab League and African Union are sending delegates to the UN to attempt to persuade the body to delay the implementation of the warrant.

"The court is only one mechanism of neo-colonialist policy used by the West against free and independent countries"

Osman Ismail, adviser to al-Bashir

The Rome statute that set up the ICC allows the UN Security Council to pass a resolution to defer or suspend for a year the investigation or prosecution of a case.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, has urged Sudan to co-operate with the court.

The UN says that up to 300,000 have been killed in Darfur, where the UN is running one of the world's largest humanitarian missions, while Khartoum says that 10,000 have died.

A further 2.7 million people are estimated to have been uprooted by the conflict, which began when mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms against the government in 2003.

Aid work suspended

Following the ICC's decision, Sudan revoked the operating licences of a number of aid agencies working in Sudan.

The Reuters news agency on Thursday quoted an official with one aid group as saying that up to 13 aid groups had been ordered out of the country.

Alun McDonald, a spokesman for Oxfam, one of the agencies to have its licence revoked, said it was "going to have a devastating effect on hundreds of thousands of people".

Save the Children, which supports 50,000 children across Sudan, said its suspension would put thousands of lives at risk.

Reports also suggested that Medecins Sans Frontieres was among those organisations that had seen its work suspended.

Sudanese government officials have in the past threatened to take action against Darfur-based aid groups which they say are passing evidence on to the global court's prosecutor - accusations the agencies deny.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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