Doesn't look good
Egypt forewarns against the potential arrest of Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, Dina Ezzat
Next Wednesday the International Criminal Court (ICC) will issue its verdict on the request of its chief prosecutor for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir on charges of committing crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur. A statement issued by the ICC Monday declaring the date for the verdict put Egyptian diplomacy on high alert.
Cairo fears the worst. In press statements Sunday afternoon, following a closed meeting between President Hosni Mubarak and his visiting Sudanese counterpart, Presidential Spokesman Suleiman Awwad said that Cairo's attempts to get the UN Security Council to exercise its legal prerogative to suspend ICC action have not been successful. "Things do not look so good," Awwad said.
Informed Egyptian, Arab and African sources say that Al-Bashir has hardly any chance to avoid the issuance of an arrest warrant unless he meets a long list of humanitarian and political demands tabled by the permanent members of the UN Security Council. The demands include the arrest and prosecution of some of Al-Bashir's closet aides, which the Sudanese president has publicly and repeatedly refused.
"He did it before when he signed a peace agreement with the southern rebels. He met almost every single demand and there is no reason to assume that he wouldn't do it again this time," said one Egyptian official on condition of anonymity. Following the ICC announcement Monday evening, however, the same source said: "Now it seems [time is] running out, even for a very reconciliatory positioning by the Sudanese president."
On Sunday, Awwad firmly stressed Mubarak's warnings against the consequences of an arrest warrant being issued against the Sudanese president. According to Awwad, as well as other Arab officials, such a warrant -- not to mention an arrest itself -- would have "catastrophic consequences on Sudan".
"This is a country that is all but divided by civil wars. To further destabilise the already weak central regime means that the country could disintegrate sooner or later. This means endless waves of refugees and displaced individuals -- a humanitarian catastrophe not just for Sudan but indeed for its neighbours," commented an Egyptian source. He added that Egypt is already having a hard time dealing with the humanitarian situation in Gaza. Moreover, Egypt, just like Libya and Sudan's other neighbours, fears that a destabilised Sudan would become a launching pad for terrorist activities. "We are already having a difficult time with the situation in Somalia. Now we also have to worry about what would come of Sudan," the same official said.
Sources say that in Cairo on Sunday, and during talks in Khartoum on Saturday with visiting Emir of Qatar Hamad bin Khalifa, Al-Bashir demanded that both the Arab League and the African Union takes a public stance refusing to accept or cooperate with an ICC warrant arrest on the basis that neither Sudan nor most Arab or African states are signatories to the Rome Statute upon which the ICC is founded and operates. "Assuming that the ICC warrant arrest is issued, it would not be compulsory for countries that are not signatories [of the Rome Statute]," Awwad said.
However, the presidential spokesman acknowledged a worst-case scenario whereby the Security Council chooses to enforce an ICC warrant arrest under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Then, Awwad said, it becomes compulsory for all UN member states to honour the warrant. Judging by precedents where Libya and Iraq were subject to Chapter VII sanctions, Egypt and most Arab countries would likely honour their obligations.
According to informed Arab sources, the emir of Qatar had offered Al-Bashir safe refuge should he decide to step down and allow the nation to democratically elect a successor. Awwad declined on Sunday to comment on this matter. However, Egyptian sources say that the advice that Al-Bashir is now getting from Cairo, as from other Arab capitals, is that he should prioritise the safety and integrity of Sudan.