South Africa tells ICC: "Give peace a chance" in Darfur
UNITED NATIONS |
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - South Africa said on Tuesday that an increasing number of countries want the International Criminal Court, in the interest of peace in Darfur, to halt any genocide indictment of Sudan's president.
The U.N. Security Council is split on a South African and Libyan proposal that it call on the ICC's judges to refrain from taking any action on a request by their chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, for an arrest warrant against Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for war crimes in Darfur.
Moreno-Ocampo accused Bashir of orchestrating a campaign of genocide during the 5-year-old conflict that has killed 35,000 people outright and at least 100,000 through starvation and disease, and forced 2.5 million from their homes.
"We are not saying 'stop doing it' to the prosecutor of the ICC," South Africa's ambassador to the United Nations, Dumisani Kumalo, told reporters. "We are saying, give peace a chance, can you just give it a year, let's see UNAMID deployed."
The current mandate for UNAMID -- the joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur -- expires on Thursday, which means the Security Council has until then to approve an extension. A British-drafted resolution council members hope to vote on would extend the mandate until July 31, 2009.
The vote was originally scheduled for Wednesday. But council diplomats say it might be delayed until Thursday due to disagreement over the South African and Libyan proposal to insert a paragraph calling for a suspension of any ICC moves.
British Deputy Ambassador Karen Pierce told reporters there was no chance of breaking the deadlock on the ICC by Thursday. She said the resolution should focus solely on UNAMID and the could deal with the issue of Bashir and the ICC later.
"We hope the council members will be able to rally to that," she said.
Seven of the 15 council members back the Article 16 issue.
Council members Libya, South Africa, Russia, China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Burkina Faso all want to include in the UNAMID resolution a reference to Article 16 of the ICC statute, which allows the Security Council to suspend ICC investigations or prosecutions for a renewable period of one year.
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Moscow supported suspending any ICC indictment of Bashir but indicated that the issue did not necessarily have to be in the UNAMID resolution.
"HOSTAGE TO THE ICC"
So far, Britain has refused to include the new paragraph. Other Western council members, such as the United States and France, agree with Britain that there is no point in mentioning any ICC moves on Bashir now because the court is not expected to decide on whether to indict him for several months.
UNAMID has been struggling to stabilize the situation in Darfur but only some 9,500 troops and police have been deployed out of a planned force of 26,000. Adding to their difficulties, troop contributing countries have failed to provide badly needed helicopters and other equipment for the mission.
The United Nations hopes to have 80 percent of the full mission deployed by the end of the year. But outgoing U.N. peacekeeping chief Jean-Marie Guehenno told reporters that it would be difficult to meet this target.
Asked if he thought the ICC moves on Bashir would hinder or help peacekeepers, Guehenno said it was too early to say whether it would mark a turning point in the Darfur crisis or spark a new cycle of violence.
An Indonesian envoy told Reuters the council might approve something like a 2-month temporary extension of UNAMID'S mandate to give the council time to break the ICC deadlock.
Pierce said Britain opposed a temporary rollover.
Russia and China, both veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council, support suspending the process but neither has been willing to take the lead on the issue.
Council diplomats say China's decision to play a passive role, despite its strong ties to Sudan's government, stems from its reluctance to give prominence to its close relationship to Khartoum before the Beijing Olympics, which open August 8.
(Additional reporting by Opheera McDoom in Khartoum; Editing by Bill Trott and David Storey)
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