July 11, 2008 / 2:33 PM / 12 years ago

ICC prosecutor likely to name Sudan's Bashir-UN envoy

By Patrick Worsnip

UNITED NATIONS, July 11 (Reuters) - The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court is likely to seek the arrest of Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir in a new war crimes case he will open on Darfur on Monday, a senior European envoy said on Friday.

The prosecution said in a statement on Thursday Luis Moreno-Ocampo would submit to judges "evidence on crimes committed in the whole of Darfur over the last five years" and seek to charge an individual or individuals but gave no details.

Sudan has said any such move could undermine the peace process in Darfur and aid officials fear a potential backlash. The Darfur investigation also could embarrass China, Sudan’s close ally, just weeks before the start of the Beijing Olympics.

"We don’t know anything for definite but we know that Bashir is one of the people Moreno-Ocampo is looking at," the senior envoy to the United Nations told Reuters.

"I would expect Bashir to be among those named by Moreno-Ocampo." The envoy asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The Washington Post reported that the prosecutor of the Hague-based ICC would seek an arrest warrant for Bashir, charging him with genocide and crimes against humanity, citing U.N. officials and diplomats.

Publicly, the United Nations has remained tight-lipped over an issue that could pit the demands of the U.N.-backed ICC against U.N. interests in deploying a peace force in Darfur.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declined on Thursday to say who would be named or what the consequences might be for the struggling U.N.-African Union force. Seven soldiers of the force were killed in an attack by unidentified militia on Tuesday.

"Peace without justice cannot be sustainable," he told a news conference at the United Nations. "I will have to assess all the situations when there will be an announcement by the ICC."

STATE APPARATUS

Moreno-Ocampo said last month that Sudan’s "entire state apparatus" was involved in an organized campaign to attack civilians in Darfur and said he would present judges with evidence implicating senior Sudanese officials in July.

ICC judges issued arrest warrants for two Sudanese suspects last year — government minister Ahmad Harun and militia commander Ali Kushayb. Khartoum has refused to hand them over.

International experts say at least 200,000 people have died in Darfur and 2.5 million have been displaced since a rebellion erupted in 2003. Khartoum says 10,000 people have been killed.

Moreno-Ocampo’s office says he will hold a news conference on Monday when he will "summarize the evidence, the crimes and name individual(s) charged."

Judges probably will take several weeks or even months to rule on the likely application for new arrest warrants.

Only about 9,000 troops and police out of a planned 26,000 U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force have been deployed in Darfur, partly due to Sudan’s fears they could be used by the ICC to enforce its arrest warrants.

One option before the Security Council is to use Article 16 of the court’s statute to suspend a prosecution for a year, but the European envoy was skeptical the council would do that.

"China is reflecting on Article 16 but I think the position of most Western countries will be to support the court," he said.

China has advised Sudan to cooperate with U.N. efforts to resolve the Darfur crisis but has faced Western criticism as Khartoum’s biggest arms supplier and for not using its oil and investment stakes to press harder for an end to the conflict.

(Additional reporting by Emma Thomasson in Amsterdam; editing by Frances Kerry)




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