ICC halts Darfur probe; Bashir threatens rebels

International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced Dec. 12 that she has suspended investigations into alleged war crimes in Sudan's Darfur, citing the UN Security Council's inaction in the case. "I am left with no choice but to hibernate investigative activities in Darfur as I shift resources to other urgent cases," Bensouda told the Security Council, rebuking the UN body for failing to push for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Presenting her 20th report to the Council on Darfur, Bensouda stated that without action, the cases against Bashir and three other indicted suspects would remain deadlocked. "What is needed is a dramatic shift in this council's approach to arresting Darfur suspects," Bensouda told the Council, or there would be "little or nothing to report to you for the foreseeable future." She also emphasized that the conflict is not over, saying that "massive new displacements" have taken place this year in Darfur.

Bensouda's announcement came amid a Ugandan-led campaign for African countries to pull out of the ICC, following the collapse of the case against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. Bashir, who has ruled Sudan for 25 years, became the first sitting head of state to be indicted by the ICC in 2009, but has since continued to freely travel aborad. Over the past months, he travelled to Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Ethiopia, which defied requests by the court to detain him. (Middle East Online, Dec. 13)

Bashir responded triumphantly to the announcement. "They wanted us to kneel before the International Criminal Court but the ICC raised its hands and admitted that it had failed," he said in a defiant speech. "The Sudanese people have defeated the ICC and have refused to hand over any Sudanese to the colonialist courts."

Bashir also took the opportunity to threaten the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), which unites rebels in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Bashir accused the the SRF and opposition leaders of being "agents and mercenaries." He said the SRF sent fighters to support Moammar Qaddafi during Libya's revolution, adding that "they are fighting in the ongoing conflict in South Sudan for money also," and have "sold themselves to the enemies of Sudan." He pledged he will not negotiate with the SRF, saying the conflict in Darfur (where negotiations were opened) is separate from those in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

On Dec. 3, the SRF joined with leaders of Sudan's political opposition forces and civil society organizations in Addis Ababa to issue a "Sudan Call" for the end of war, dismantlement of the one-party state, and a democratic transition. The agreement was signed by SRF deputy chairman Minni Minnawi, National Consensus Forces (NCF) leader Farouk Abu Issa, National Umma Party (NUP) leader Sadiq al-Mahdi, and Amin Maki Madani, head of the Alliance of the Sudanese Civil Society Organisations. (Sudan Tribune, Reuters via Al Arabiya, Dec. 13)

  1. Sudan president leaves South Africa despite court order

    Sudan President Omar al-Bashir was allowed to leave South Africa on June 15, despite a ruling by the North Gauteng High Court that he should be kept in the country because of International Criminal Court (ICC) warrants for his arrest. Shortly after he left, the High Court issued its own order for his arrest. Bashir was visiting South Africa for an African Union summit and had been offered immunity during the summit by the South African government. Human rights groups including Amnesty International strongly criticized [press release] Bashir's allowed departure. (Jurist, June 15)