ICC decision will impact on Sudan's peace process - SA

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Geneva - The International Criminal Court's (ICC) decision to issue an arrest warrant against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for war crimes is regrettable as it will impact negatively on the peace processes in that country, says Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

"South Africa has never countenanced any acts of impunity. However, South Africa supported the decision of the African Union (AU) to defer the issuing of the warrant of arrest against President Al-Bashir by a year to give the peace processes in the Sudan a chance," said Minister Dlamini Zuma.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) on Wednesday announced the issuing of a warrant of arrest for the Sudanese President for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

"In the light of the decision of the ICC on Wednesday, South Africa concurs with the African Union's initial response that the ICC's decision is regrettable as it will impact negatively on the current peace processes in the Sudan," the minister said.

The minister further said South Africa will have to await further discussions within the confines of the AU which will inform the country's own comprehensive response to these developments.

The AU said Wednesday that the warrant against Mr Bashir could impede the peace process in Sudan.

"The search for justice should be pursued in a way that does not impede or jeopardise the promotion of peace," AU Commission Chairperson Jean Ping said in a statement.

The AU was deeply concerned over "the far-reaching consequences of this decision, which comes at a critical juncture in the process to promote lasting peace, reconciliation and democratic governance in Sudan," he said.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday Sudan rejected the arrest warrant issued by the Hague-based ICC that charged Mr Bashir with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

"The Sudanese presidency absolutely rejects the arrest warrant issued by the so-called International Criminal Court," Vice President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha said Wednesday at a press conference in the capital's Friendship Hall.

The remarks came after a closed-door consultation between Mr Bashir, Mr Taha, and First Vice President Salva Kiir Mayardit, who is a former leader of the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army that controls the semi-autonomous southern Sudan.

"The presidency is confident that the Sudanese people could overcome the ordeal with firmness and consciousness as usual," Mr Taha said.

However, he promised that the presidency will abide by the constitution and peace agreements signed in the past, including the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the Darfur Peace Agreement.

"The presidency will ... ensure the stabilisation and the security of international organisations and expatriates," Mr Taha said.