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Activists rally at UN against efforts to block ICC investigation.

By Daniel Van Oudenaren September 26, 2008 (NEW YORK) a" Human rights activists with Amnesty International USA demonstrated outside the United Nations on Thursday evening to press the UN Security Council to reject the efforts of some countries to block the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes committed in the Darfur region of Sudan. About 200 demonstraters gathered in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza in New York to support the ICC process and to urge member states to keep the promises they have made for more than a year to send 26,000 peacekeepers to protect civilians in Darfur. The United States would like to see an increase of 4,000 troops in Darfur before the end of the year, a US diplomat said Thursday a" still putting the total number of peacekeepers at significantly less than 26,000. "Delays in deployment are putting millions of lives at further risk in a region where hundreds of thousands of individuals have died in more than five years of unrelenting, horrific violence," said Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA. At the demonstration on Thursday, activists from 15 organizations erected 15 eight-foot-high silhouette figures blindfolded and carrying scales of justice. "Nobody, including the current head of state of Sudan, should be protected from prosecution for the most serious crimes under international law," said Cox. "If attempts to block the ICC's investigation of President Bashir succeed, it would set a dangerous precedent for others to try to undermine international law. It would send a message that the international community is not serious about ending impunity for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes." Sudanese officials disagree, pointing to their own judicial process and the importance of Bashir's role as head of state. "I think it would not be a peaceful world to live in if a head of state is just an individual," said Bona Malwal, special advisor to President Bashir, on Sept. 18 in Washington. "I have seen the devastation that the war has brought to the people of southern Sudan over 22 years," he said, also stressing that an election should be used to remove a head of state, not a foreign court. Sudan is currently leading a diplomatic effort at the United Nations to suspend the ICC proceedings, using the power granted to the security council in the Rome Statute, the treaty governing the ICC. The African Union and the League of Arab States have joined in this effort, although several permanent Security Council members have stated that they will veto a measure to suspend the ICC proceedings. udan scored a symbolic victory on Friday when African nations in a ministerial meeting of the Group of 77, a coalition of developing nations, elected Sudan to chair the group througout 2009. "Efforts will continue until such a time as the ICC judges rule," predicted Amnesty's Director of International Justice Vienna Colucci, referring to the Sudanese diplomatic effort. "Any deferral of this investigation would seriously undermine the painstaking work to establish a deterrent to grave human rights abuses," she said. "Such a move would signal that the Security Council is willing to tolerate blackmail." Some observers have expressed fears that the issuance of an arrest warrant for Bashir could worsen the situation in Darfur, especially after direct threats from Sudanese officials that the government would expel humanitarian organizations and the UNAMID peacekeeping force. But Colucci stressed that any fall-out from the ICC indictment is not the responsibility of the judicial body, but would rest "squarely on the government of Sudan." "What the UN should be saying is that this is not going to be tolerated," Colucci argued. "Certainly we don't want to imply that it is not complex," she said, but reiterated that the present situation is not a case of pursuing justice after-the-fact, but it is about bringing to justice a party that is still committing crimes and genocide. Amnesty International is calling on Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador to the United Nations, to use his influence to prevent the Security Council from obstructing the investigation. "I thought that yesterday's rally really was very heartening. I thought that it really showed the coalition that has come together to demand this," Colucci told Sudan Tribune. (ST)

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Publication:Sudan Tribune (Sudan)
Date:Sep 30, 2008
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