sudan news record

Thursday, March 31, 2005

UN Council Refers Darfur Crimes to Hague Tribunal


By Evelyn Leopold
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council on Thursday voted to refer war crimes cases in Sudan's Darfur region to the International Criminal Court after Washington, which opposes the tribunal, decided to abstain rather than veto the resolution.

The vote was 11-0 with four abstentions. The resolution marked the first time the Security Council referred a case to the Hague-based court, set up to try suspected perpetrators of genocide, war crimes and mass human rights abuses.
The Bush administration, which argues that Americans could be targets of politically motivated prosecutions, had threatened to veto the measure.
But council members made last-minute concessions in the text, including guarantees that would bar the ICC or courts from any other country from prosecuting a U.S. citizen or one from any other nation in Sudan that was not a party to the court.
France, which had drafted the original measure, had misgivings about that language, so Britain took over sponsorship of the resolution.
The United States was in the difficult position of either swallowing its fierce opposition to the ICC or vetoing a resolution that would try people for the pillage, slaughter and rape in Darfur that Washington has itself called genocide.
'FIRM OBJECTIONS'
"We decided not to oppose the resolution because of the need for the international community to work together to end the climate of impunity in Darfur," said the acting U.S. ambassador, Anne Patterson.
But she told the council, "We have not dropped and indeed continue to maintain our long-standing and firm objections and concerns regarding the ICC."
The 11 votes in favor of the resolution came from France, Britain, Greece, Denmark, Tanzania, Benin, Argentina and Romania, which have ratified the court's treaty, as well as Russia, Japan and the Philippines.
The four abstentions came from the United States, China, Algeria as well as Brazil, which is a strong supporter of the court but disagreed with expanding exemptions for the United States rather than adhering to ICC statutes.
"From our point of view, this referral should not be approved at any cost," said Brazil's U.N. Ambassador Ronaldo Mota Sardenberg.
Ambassador Lauro Baja of the Philippines, who voted in favor, agreed. He said the resolution had been softened to avert a U.S. veto, thereby preventing "the emission of a strong, robust and clear signal from this august body.
"Perhaps this is the reason why the call for Security Council reforms grows louder as days go on," he said.
China and Algeria said they abstained because they opposed an international, rather than an African solution for Sudan.
The ICC began functioning about a year ago as a long-delayed successor to the Nazi war crimes trials at Nuremberg after World War II. Some 98 countries have ratified the treaty creating the court but the Bush administration rescinded the U.S. signature as a sign of its opposition.
The Security Council can refer a case to the ICC if the country where the crimes took place is unwilling or unable to bring those responsible to justice.

Over the last two years, at least 180,000 people have died from fighting, hunger and disease in Sudan's Darfur region. More than 2 million people, mainly African villagers, have been forced out of their homes by Arab militia.
In January a panel of U.N.-appointed investigators concluded that the ICC was the best place for trials since Sudan had shown little willingness to prosecute suspects. It has drawn up a sealed list of 51 suspects the ICC should investigate.

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