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Page last updated at 14:45 GMT, Tuesday, 15 July 2008 15:45 UK

Defiance and confidence in Sudan

By Karen Allen
BBC News, Khartoum

A pro-Bashir rally in Khartoum, Sudan. Photo: 15 July 2008
Angry demonstrators in Khartoum vowed to protect their president
Defiant and confident - this is the mood in Khartoum less than 24 hours after the International Criminal Court prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, accused Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Given that Sudan does not recognise the court, it is perhaps no surprise that it intends to use every means possible now to block the next stage - the issuing of an arrest warrant against Mr Bashir.

Previous warrants - designed to land a serving Sudanese minister and a Janjaweed leader in the dock - have come to nothing. They have been torn up by the Sudanese authorities who maintain that their own courts are capable of doing the job.

This is despite the fact that it is the use of state apparatus to deadly effect that forms the basis of the ICC prosecutor's allegations.

Coup warning

Jan Pronk, a former UN special envoy to Sudan, spoke with insight when he said that the government of President Bashir would use the ICC allegations as an instrument to strengthen its own power.

READ A SUMMARY OF THE CASE
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Even Sudan's opposition Umma party, which initially favoured the ICC investigation, has warned that it could prompt "constitutional collapse".

The African Union has cautioned that we could see "a military coup and widespread anarchy" if the arrest warrants are issued.

Sudan's Chinese allies have expressed "grave concern and misgivings" at the proposed indictment and the impact it could have on destabilising an already fragile region.

'Easy' targets

So where next?

Human rights groups have sought to defend the ICC.

They argue that - by requesting arrest warrants for a serving leader - the court sends the message out to others that impunity will not longer be tolerated.

ACCUSATIONS AGAINST BASHIR
Omar al-Bashir at a rally in Khartoum, 13 July
Genocide:
Killing members of the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups
Causing these groups serious bodily or mental harm
Inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about these groups' physical destruction
Crimes against humanity:
Murder
Extermination
Forcible transfer
Rape
Torture
War crimes:
Attacks on civilians in Darfur
Pillaging towns and villages

But the problem for the ICC is the perception that it is a political beast motivated by rich Western interests, honing in on "easy" targets.

All four investigations of the ICC to date have focused on Africa. There may be good administrative reasons for that, but it pushes African nations onto the defensive and makes the ICC look like a playground bully - rather than a beacon of justice.

The International Crisis Group (ICG) think-tank has suggested that the international community can carve out an opportunity out of the current adversity.

Rather than hand-wringing over how much more insecure Darfur could become, it is suggesting that Mr Moreno-Ocampo's charges could provide some leverage to hold Sudan in check.

Sudan has not responded well in the past to threats and UN Security Council resolutions on Darfur, but the landscape this time may be different.

It is likely to take several months before the ICC judges decide whether to issue an arrest warrant against Mr Bashir.

The ICG says that time could be used to assess whether "genuine and substantial progress" had been made in halting the violence in Darfur.

Invoking article 16 of the Rome Statute that underpins the ICC would allow for any prosecutions to be suspended and reviewed periodically.

If the yardsticks by which Sudan's progress is measured include permitting the expansion of the joint AU-UN peacekeeping force to full strength and engaging in genuine peace brokering, the legal move may not be the blunt instrument that so many fear.


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