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Arrest Warrant for Sudan’s President is Well Oiled

Eye on Arab Media

New America Media, News Analysis, Jalal Ghazi Posted: Apr 02, 2009

Editor’s Note: Arab countries are outraged over the International Criminal Court’s March 4 arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. According to Arab media, the warrant is motivated by oil, not justice.

Since the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on March 4, Arab media have played an active role in challenging the court’s legitimacy and arguing that it is motivated by the quest for Darfur’s untapped oil resources.

Like many Arab media, Al Majallah, an international news magazine, accused the West (the United States, France and Britain) of creating “a destructive political storm” against the Sudanese government immediately after it decided to allow Chinese oil companies to look for oil in Darfur.

According to Al Majallah, the Sudanese government has entered talks with Chinese oil companies and has been trying to impose its control on the region to prevent rebel groups from sabotaging exploration efforts.

Rebel leader Suliman Marjan told Al Majallah that the Sudanese government was using heavy weaponry “to dismantle ambushes that were staged by the rebels who were waiting for Sudanese forces in El Atroun Valley, to prevent them from securing oil areas.” According to Al Majallah, “The Sudanese government sent 300 armored vehicles so that the Chinese oil companies could go to the far north of Darfur.”

While the Sudanese government is eager to help Chinese oil companies secure oil rights in Darfur, rebel leaders backed by the United States, France and Britain want to postpone oil exploration in Darfur until a peace deal is reached.

Al Majallah warned that the tag of war between Western and Chinese companies over Darfur’s oil is threatening the unity of Sudan. China and Russia back the central government in Khartoum and support reaching a local solution to the crisis in Darfur. The United States, Britain and France support the rebel groups and want to resolve the crisis using Western forces such as NATO.

The Sudanese government fears that the presence of Western forces could eventually lead to the separation of Darfur from Sudan.

Al Majallah also holds Western countries partially responsible for the failure of the peace process in Darfur. By supporting the rebels, it reports, the West, which is “concerned that they will lose the war in Darfur,” is encouraging them to “blackmail the Sudanese government and cause a state of permanent war in the region.”

At least one of the main rebel groups in Darfur, the Justice and Equality Movement, was encouraged by the ICC’s decision to reject further negotiation with the Sudanese government.

The group, which had agreed to peace talks only one month before, now calls for regime change. According to London-based Asharq Al-Awsat, the Justice and Equality Movement called on the UN Security Council to introduce an "oil for food" program similar to the one that was used in Iraq under former President Saddam Hussein.

The intended objective of the warrant may have been to undermine the legitimacy of the Sudanese government, but the results were the exact opposite.

Since the ICC issued the arrest warrant against al-Bashir, he has gained unprecedented support from Islamic, Arab and African countries. The African Union, Arab League, Organization of the Islamic Conference and many others back Sudan’s demand that the ICC arrest warrant be dropped.

This support does not necessary reflect al-Bashir’s popularity. Rather it shows their outrage over what is viewed as the ICC’s double standards of justice.

Michel Massih, who is leading the Sudanese president’s international defense team, told the London-based Arab News Broadcast that the ICC’s arrest warrant against al Bashir had its own legal problems.

He points out that Article 6 of UN Security Resolution 1593, which authorized the ICC to investigate the situation in Dafur, demands immunity for U.S. officials and citizens being tried by the ICC. This makes the resolution meaningless from a legal standpoint, he argues, because it establishes two standards of justice, one for Americans and another for Sudanese.

Massih also criticized the way the International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo publicized his accusations against the Sudanese president. Massih, who has been practicing international law for 30 years, told Arab News Broadcast, “ I have never heard in my legal career of a chief prosecutor that launches media campaigns against a defendant, regardless of the nature of the charges.”

Arab foreign ministers who met before the Arab League summit in Doha are "urging all Arab countries not to cooperate with the ICC’s measures."

In defiance of the ICC, Eritrea, Libya, and Egypt invited al-Bashir to their countries, where he received a hero’s welcome. The Sudanese president was also invited to attend the Arab League summit in Doha, Qatar.

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