No quick way to enforce ICC warrant for Bashir

UNITED NATIONS, (Reuters) – The International  Criminal Court has ordered the arrest of Sudan’s president, but  even the court’s most ardent supporters concede it will be a  long time before he appears in the dock — if he ever does.

As a legal expert for New York-based Human Rights Watch,  Richard Dicker, noted this week, the “Achilles heel” of the ICC  is that it has no police force to carry out its warrants.

Instead, the Hague-based ICC depends on governments, mainly  those of the suspects it indicts, to enforce its wishes.

Of the four people — all Congolese warlords — surrendered  to the ICC since it came into being in 2002, three were handed  over by the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo and  one by Belgium. Seven other people indicted before this week  are still at large.

In a statement on Wednesday accompanying its warrant, the  ICC directed its registrar to send Khartoum a request to arrest  and surrender President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for alleged war  crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

It also declared that under a 2005 U.N. Security Council  resolution referring the Darfur issue to the ICC, Sudan is  obligated to cooperate with the court even though it is not a  party to the Rome statute that created the tribunal.

But in reality no one expects Sudan to hand over Bashir,  who has been executive ruler of the country for more than 15  years, absent major political changes in the country.

Sudan has said repeatedly it does not recognize the ICC and  will ignore its requests. It has already refused to hand over  two Sudanese men previously indicted by the court for alleged  crimes in Darfur.

The United Nations, which has thousands of peacekeeping  troops in Sudan, says they are not mandated to arrest Bashir  and will not attempt to do so unless their mandate is changed  by the Security Council — which diplomats says is unlikely.

So the debate among diplomats and analysts has been to what  extent the arrest warrant could restrict Bashir’s foreign  travel, reduce his international influence and possibly, in the  long run, weaken him politically at home.

In its statement, the ICC called on the 108 countries that  are parties to the Rome statute, U.N. Security Council members  that are not parties — who include the United States, Russia  and China — and “any other state as may be necessary” to  cooperate with the arrest warrant.

Bashir would appear to be most at risk of arrest if he  arrived in a country that is a party to the Rome statute.

That effectively allows him to travel most of the Arab  world, since of the 22 Arab League members, only Jordan,  Djibouti and the Comoros have signed and ratified the statute.  Sudan says Bashir will attend a League summit in Doha, Qatar,  later this month.

Thirty African states are parties, but Ethiopia, which  hosts the headquarters of the African Union, is not one. Bashir  attended an AU summit in Addis Ababa just last month.

Both the Arab League and the AU have criticized the arrest  warrant as a threat to peace prospects in Darfur and both  organizations are sending delegations to New York to try to  persuade the Security Council to defer it. Veto-holders the  United States, Britain and France oppose any deferral.

Western countries say that for a state belonging to the  ICC, its obligation to carry out an arrest warrant outweighs  any other consideration. But an African country thinking of  accepting a visit by Bashir might argue that he is immune to  arrest as a head of state.

The ICC warrant may not even stop diplomatic contacts with  Bashir. The U.N. envoy of one major Western state said his  country would cut “non-essential” contacts with the Sudanese  leader but that “essential” contacts might include an  ambassador’s presentation of credentials in Khartoum.

U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas said U.N. officials “will  continue to deal with President al-Bashir when they need to do  so.”

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