Friday, March 5, 2010

ICC chief: Sudan's Bashir "will face justice"

Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. Photo/REUTERS
President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan. Photo/FILE
Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. Photo/Reuters
Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. Photo/Reuters
By JIM DURY

LONDON (Reuters) - Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir will eventually face justice in The Hague, according to the head of the International Criminal Court.

Speaking on the first anniversary of the ICC issuing an arrest warrant for Bashir, its president Judge Sang-hyun Song dismissed criticism that the man wanted on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity has not been apprehended.

"When arrest warrants were issued against Slobodan Milosevic and Charles Taylor, people laughed and said it was a joke, but it took less than three years to get them brought before the tribunal," Song said on a visit to London.

"President Bashir will be brought to the Hague to face justice."

Bashir has dismissed the ICC warrant and said any ruling by the court is worthless.

The United Nations believes that seven years of violent conflict in Sudan's Darfur region has left 300,000 dead.

ICC prosecutors say Bashir "masterminded and implemented" a plan to destroy three ethnic groups, the Fur, Masalit, and Zaghawa, using a campaign of murder, rape, and deportation.

It was the first warrant ever issued by the ICC for a sitting head of state.

Speaking at the event in parliament organised by the Henry Jackson Society, a geopolitical think-tank, Song said the ICC was successfully acting as a deterrent to despots across the world.

"Some at the U.N. have told me they have noticed a deterrent effect by the judicial actions we've taken. Perhaps the would-be perpetrators of atrocities fear us, and this is an indication of our progress," Song said.

Song also praised U.S. President Barack Obama for adopting a more positive attitude to the ICC than his predecessor.

"The U.S. government has ended its antagonistic stance towards the ICC and the key phrase that their officials use is having a 'positive engagement' with us," he said.

The United States has yet to ratify the 1998 Rome Statute which established the ICC and which has been signed by 60 countries.

Former President George W. Bush expressed concern that lawsuits could potentially be initiated against U.S. citizens abroad.

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