Friday, March 20, 2009

Ocampo: "I will arrest Bashir" (and maybe the rebels too)

International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo got downright feisty for the UN Press Corps outside the Security Council following a meeting on the humanitarian situation in Darfur. Saying the expulsion of the aid groups confirms the decision of the ICC to indict Sudanese Bashir for war crimes, Ocampo said that "any UN state can arrest President Bashir," even in international airspace. "If he travels through international airspace, he could be arrested," said Ocampo. "Two months or two years, it will depend on the states, how the states act, but he will face justice."

Ocampo dismissed the claims of a number of Council members suggesting that the ICC decision was responsible for the humanitarian crisis. "It's very interesting," he said. "The prosecutor is responsible, not the criminal [they say]. Here we describe the crimes committed by Omar al-Bashir. He's responsible. If the king is naked, it's not my responsibility that he is naked."

He also denied Khartoum's charges that the evicted NGOs had collaborated with the ICC. Asked how much collaboration he had with NGOS, Ocampo said "zero. Zero. Zero information from the NGOs. Zero. I respect different mandates. I never requested any information from these NGOs."

Off mic, Ocampo elaborated.

"The responsibility is with the person who committed the crimes, not the person who informed on the crimes," said Ocampo, brushing off charges from African countries that he was making the situation in Darfur worse, not better. "The person who attacked the villages, who decided to deny humanitarian assistance and now has expelled humanitarian assistance."

Ocampo announced, "Now I have a warrant, I will arrest Bashir." Pressed on how he would do this, he clarified, "I will not arrest. I will galvanize the effort to arrest Mr. Bashir."

Ocampo also warned the Darfur rebels. "In a few weeks I expect a decision of the judges on the rebels and I have one of the rebel commanders who promised to surrender to the court, if the court calls him. So in a few weeks probably I will have the rebels in court and will present a case against them. I am totally impartial."

Lastly, he flatly rejected the charge by President Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann that the court was "racist" in its indictment of Bashir. "He's wrong," said Ocampo of Brockmann. "I'm protecting victims in Africa. ... That's the funny thing. The perpetrators are Africans. The victims are Africans. The perpetrators are Muslims. The victims are Muslims. This is brother killing brother."

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