Egypt warns Sudan that Bashir not immune from ICC prosecution

November 15, SMC

The Egyptian government warned Sudan that its stance on the International Criminal Court (ICC) is “weak” and will not protect president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir from prosecution.

“I thoroughly examined the ICC Statute to look for something that could aid Sudan’s position. Even though Sudan is not a state party this will not prevent the ICC jurisdiction in these cases and dropping all immunities” the Egyptian State minister for Legal and parliamentary affairs Mufid Shihab said during a forum at the Saudi Embassy in Cairo.

The Egyptian official stressed that the only way out for Sudan and its president is to take “concrete and concise steps” and that there is no point of taking extreme positions on rejecting the ICC.

The ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo Ocampo announced in mid-July that he requested an arrest warrant for Al-Bashir on 10 counts of war crimes and genocide. In early October ICC judges have officially started reviewing the case in a process that could possibly drag on to next year.

The statements by Shihab mark a radical shift in Egypt’s position which has backed Sudan in position against the ICC.

The Egyptian minister, who is an international lawyer expert, has previously said in August that Khartoum is not bound by the ICC since it is not a member of the court and emphasized that Al-Bashir enjoys immunity as a head of state.

Shihab’s remarks come days after the Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak paid a surprise and brief visit to Khartoum where he held private talks with Al-Bashir believed to have mainly focused on the ICC row.

Cairo backed an Arab League resolution last July which described the ICC’s prosecutor position as “unbalanced”.

The Arab League’s 22 foreign ministers decided in a resolution adopted on Saturday to show “solidarity with the Republic of Sudan in the face of any schemes aimed at undermining its sovereignty, unity and stability and not to accept the unbalanced position of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court at the request contained in a case submitted to the ICC (pre-trial Chamber)”.

The Arab minister further said they adopt this position to emphasis on their rejection to any “attempts meaning to politicize the principles of international justice or to use it to erode State sovereignty, unity, security, stability and national symbols”.

The Arab League devised a plan containing a series of steps to help Sudan avoid Bashir’s prosecution which included conducting internal trials for Darfur war crimes suspects. Following its implementation the UN Security (UNSC) could be requested to suspend the ICC move by invoking Article 16 for a period of 12 months that can be renewed indefinitely.

But the Sudanese presidential adviser Mustafa Ismail was quoted by the daily Al-Hayat newspaper at the time as telling reporters in Cairo after meeting with Arab League Secretary general Amr Moussa “that there are some parts of the plan that need more discussions”.

Ismail also insisted that the Sudanese judiciary is capable of looking into the Darfur war crimes and noted the recent appointment of a special prosecutor for Darfur by Sudan’s justice minister.

Shihab downplayed the Arab efforts on the ICC issue describing them as “rhetorical and emotional”.

“This will not avert the disaster” the leading figure in Egypt ruling National Party cautioned.

The French-Libyan born counsel Dr. Hadi Shalluf commenting on Shihab statements said that Cairo position on ICC “are contradictory”.

“The Egyptians do not have a fixed legal opinion. One time they say the ICC has no jurisdiction and then later they say no they do” Shallluf told Sudan Tribune by phone from Paris.

"This is the nature of the Arab politics. Legal opinions are variable depending on political positions. Arab justice ministers are politicians They don’t understand in law. They are simply policemen" he added.

Sudan has not ratified the Rome Statute, but the UN Security Council (UNSC) triggered the provisions under the Statute that enables it to refer situations in non-State parties to the world court if it deems that it is a threat to international peace and security.

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