UNITED NATIONS (AFP) – International Criminal Court (ICC) judges have decided to issue an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir over alleged genocide in Darfur, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
The daily, quoting court lawyers and diplomats, reported on its website that the move by a panel of judges in The Hague marked the first time that the world’s first independent, permanent tribunal on war crimes has sought the detention of a sitting head of state since it began its work in 2002.
It said precise charges cited by the judges against Beshir had not been not disclosed.
Last year, ICC’s chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo asked the court for an arrest warrant for Beshir on 10 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur.
The New York Times quoted UN officials as saying the decision on the warrant was communicated to UN chief Ban Ki-moon and was expected to be formally announced at the court in the coming days.
But asked to comment on the report, UN deputy spokeswoman Marie Okabe said: “I can confirm that no decision has been received by the Secretary General. We do not anticipate receiving such communication and we do not normally receive such communication.”
And Japan’s UN Ambassador Yukio Takasu, the president of the Security Council this month, said: “The council has not been informed yet.”
“We have not been told about this but it would not be a surprise to us. It does not concern us,” said Sudan’s UN Ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad.
Tuesday, Ban urged Khartoum to act “very responsibly” if an arrest warrant is issued for Beshir.
The UN chief told a press conference that whatever decision the ICC reaches, “it will be very important for President Beshir and the Sudanese government to react very responsibly and ensure the safety and security” of UN peacekeepers (in Darfur) and protect the human rights of the population.”
Last week, UN special envoy to Sudan Ashraf Qazi warned that the UN Security Council would have to weigh “potential threats” to the operation of the UN mission in Sudan (UNMIS) and the joint UN-AU mission in Darfur (UNAMID) as a result of the ICC decision.
“We have received assurances of protection and cooperation from Sudanese authorities at the highest levels,” he noted. “But these assurances have been qualified by warnings about political outrage.”
In a report issued earlier this month, Ban also voiced concern about remarks by some Sudanese officials suggesting that “Khartoum may redefine its relationship with UNMIS should an arrest warrant be issued against president al-Beshir.”
In Washington, the Save Darfur Coalition, an alliance of more than 180 US faith-based, advocacy and human rights organizations, said Wednesday that UN member states must not continue “to do business as usual with Beshir once he is an indicted war criminal.”
“At a minimum, countries should not allow him to travel to their territory and should limit diplomatic interaction with him in Khartoum to efforts to end the crisis in Darfur and bring peace to all of Sudan,” it added.
And the group said the Sudanese government should be warned that it would be “held responsible for any preemptive or retaliatory action against civilians, humanitarian aid workers, or UN and African Union peacekeeping forces.”
According to the United Nations, 300,000 people have died and more than 2.2 million have fled their homes since rebels in Darfur rose up against the Khartoum government in February 2003. Sudan puts the death toll at 10,000.