- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 5, 2009

UNITED NATIONS | Sudanese President Omar Bashir, freshly indicted by an international war-crimes tribunal for atrocities in Darfur, plans to test the court’s authority with a business trip to Qatar.

Qatar is hosting a summit of Arab leaders in two weeks, and hours after the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Wednesday issued an arrest warrant for Gen. Bashir, Sudan’s government made it clear he would attend.

“We have received the invitation and accepted it,” Mutrif Siddiq, Sudan’s undersecretary of foreign affairs, told Reuters news agency. Gen. Bashir “will attend all Arab summits and all African summits.”

The 108-nation ICC charged Gen. Bashir on seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sudan’s Darfur region.

But first, Gen. Bashir must be caught and transferred to The Hague-based ICC, which has no police force to enforce its writs and depends on individual nations to make arrests.

Sudan refuses to recognize the court, which means the only opportunity for Gen. Bashir’s apprehension would come during travel to a country willing to arrest and extradite him.

Gen. Bashir drove through Khartoum, waving to pro-government throngs demonstrating against the court.

“This is a day of national outrage, a day of national anger,” said Sudan’s ambassador to the United Nations, Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad. “This threat was created by the ICC against our leadership.”

The arrest warrant triggered the expulsion of at least six humanitarian groups from Darfur, including Doctors Without Borders and Oxfam International. Both organizations were providing relief assistance inside Darfur, the western region of Sudan.

“For us, the ICC does not exist,” Mr. Abdalhaleem said. “There is no way we will cooperate.”

The United States has not joined the ICC, but it supported Wednesday’s action.

“The ICC has issued an indictment based on a very long investigation and it is now in a judicial system, properly so,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told reporters during her trip to the Middle East.

Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, warned Khartoum not to use the ICC decision as a pretext to incite violence against civilians or international aid workers.

“The United States supports the ICC´s actions to hold accountable those responsible for the heinous crimes in Darfur,” Ms. Rice said. “We remain determined in our pursuit of both peace and justice in Sudan.”

Arab nations criticized the ICC decision, fearing it could destabilize the region. It was the first time the tribunal has cited a sitting national leader.

The Arab League said it would send a delegation to the U.N. Security Council to ask for a delay in implementing the warrant.

“President Obama will have to decide whether the United States will actively support the international court, or continue to keep its distance,” wrote Jeffrey Laurenti of the Century Foundation.

“If [Mr. Obama] is serious in declaring that one of his top foreign policy priorities is strengthening international institutions, he must press for Bashir´s arrest, roll back all his predecessors’ obstacles to the court, and move smartly to U.S. ratification.”

The U.S. has refused to join the court, fearing that it will be used for politically motivated prosecutions of American officials and soldiers.

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