Al-Bashir warrant sparks US unease
US wary of world court even as it praises warrant for Sudanese leader's arrest.
Last Modified: 05 Mar 2009 00:44 GMT

Barack Obama has called for stronger action over the conflict in Darfur [AFP]

The United States has responded to the International Criminal Court's unprecedented arrest warrant for Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president, with a carefully nuanced statement.

In depth

"The United States is strongly committed to the pursuit of peace in Sudan and believes those who have committed atrocities should be held accountable for their crimes," Gordon Duguid, a state department spokesman, said.
Barack Obama, the US president, has called for stronger international action to press Sudan to end the conflict in Darfur.

And the Obama administration's envoy to the United Nations, Susan Rice, has labelled the attacks on Darfur civilians as an "ongoing genocide".

Sovereignty concerns
Rice issued a statement on Tuesday saying the US "supports the ICC's actions to hold accountable those responsible for the heinous crimes in Darfur".

Rice has been vocal in her condemnation
of "atrocities" in Sudan [Reuters]
"The people of Sudan have suffered too much for too long, and an end to their anguish will not come easily. Those who committed atrocities in Sudan, including genocide, should be brought to justice."
But the US is not a party to the treaty that established the ICC in 2002, because George Bush, Obama's predecessor, saw submission to an international court as a violation of US sovereignty.
So, the US state department danced around questions about whether Washington would help enforce the international arrest warrant.

Asked what the US would do if al-Bashir set foot on US territory, Duguid at first dismissed the question as "hypothetical".

Pressed on whether the US would allow anyone indicted by the ICC to freely wander around on US soil, he finally said: "I'd have to ask our lawyers."

'Explosive' issue
At present 108 countries are members of the ICC.

The US is among states such as China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe and Sudan, that have not ratified the treaty and do not recognise the ICC's jurisdiction over its citizens.
US officials say the question of joining the ICC is under review.

However, they remain wary about the politically explosive prospect of members of the US military or US officials facing international criminal prosecution at some future date.

Al Jazeera
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