“A Helpful Step”: US Government Response to ICC indictment

The White House, State Department, US Mission to the UN and members of Congress all responded to the ICC arrest warrant today.  In general, the statements were, well, nice and general.  It’s almost like the government was caught by surprise.  I just thought maybe we’d have an envoy in by now, or at least someone who could do more than release a 2 paragraph statement or have their spokesperson answer questions in vague ways.

You’ll find those statements and vague answers after the jump.

WHITE HOUSE

Q    Does the President support the arrest warrant issued today against President Bashir of Sudan?  And how is the administration planning for the possibility of retaliation as a result of this against Darfurians, a possible collapse of the peace in the south, and international workers in Sudan?

MR. GIBBS:  Let me — without getting specifically into this, the White House believes that those who have committed atrocities should be held accountable; that as this process moves forward, that we would urge restraint on the part of all parties, including the government of Sudan; that further violence against civilian Sudanese or foreign interests is to be avoided and won’t be tolerated.  The President and this White House are determined to support the pursuit of an immediate cease-fire and long-term peace in the region.  Obviously there are many efforts that are ongoing in the region to help those that have been displaced, and the President believes those efforts should and must continue.

Q    So he does support the ICC’s —

MR. GIBBS:  I’m not going to go farther than what I just said.

STATE DEPARTMENT

From Reuters:

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday if Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir believed he had been wrongly charged for war crimes in Darfur he could “have his day in court”.

Speaking to reporters en route to Brussels, Clinton said she hoped the indictment issued earlier by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague would not lead to “increased violence” on the part of Sudan’s government. “President Bashir would have a chance to have his day in court if he believes that the indictment is wrongly charged. He can certainly contest it,” said Clinton. “I certainly hope that it does not lead to any additional actions of violence or punishment on the part of the Bashir government,” added Clinton. The top U.S. diplomat said the ICC had issued its indictment based on a very long investigation and the case was now in the judicial system “properly so”. Bashir was indicted on seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity but a panel of judges said it had insufficient grounds to charge him for genocide in a conflict that U.N. officials say has killed as many as 300,000 people since 2003. “Governments and individuals who either conduct or condone atrocities of any kind, as we have seen year after year in Sudan, have to be held accountable,” she said.

Statement:

The United States is strongly committed to the pursuit of peace in Sudan, and believes those who have committed atrocities should be held accountable for their crimes.

We urge the Government of Sudan, armed rebel groups, and all others – all other concerned parties to exercise restraint in responding to the ICC arrest warrant that was issued today and to ensure the safety and security of vulnerable Sudanese populations, international civilians, and peacekeepers on the ground.

The United States will continue to support efforts to ease the suffering of the Sudanese people and to promote a just and durable peace. We remain committed to the full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that brought an end to the conflict between North and South Sudan. We will also continue to support the UN-AU mediator Bassole’s efforts to achieve a permanent cessation of hostilities and a political settlement that will end the humanitarian crisis and bring a lasting peace to Darfur.

Press Briefing:

QUESTION: Are there any American personnel still in Darfur? What’s the situation at the Embassy? Are there any concerns that – even though you’re not a member of the ICC, that there might be some kind of a – there might be some kind of disturbance around your facilities?

MR. DUGUID: I checked just before coming out, so my information is as recent as I could have it, that the Embassy was open and functioning, that all American citizens were safe and accounted for. There had been protests in Khartoum, but there has been no violence that I am aware of at this particular point.

QUESTION: And in terms of Americans who might be in Darfur —

MR. DUGUID: In Darfur, I’ll have to check on that for you. I don’t have those particular figures. If we have anybody on the ground at the moment, it’s —

QUESTION: Apparently, all of the international NGOs have been called in and asked to leave. Do you have anything on that?

MR. DUGUID: I don’t. That would be something that the UN perhaps had organized. I don’t have any information on it. Our Embassy is, as I said, open and our people are at work.

Yes.

QUESTION: Since the United States is not a signatory to the ICC, if for some reason President Bashir were to be on U.S. soil, would the U.S. be under any obligation to arrest him and turn him over to international authorities?

MR. DUGUID: That’s a speculative question. I don’t expect President Bashir to be here anytime soon, so I will defer that question until it actually happens.

MR. DUGUID: The United States expects all parties to the conflict in Darfur to cooperate fully with the ICC and its prosecutors called upon by the relevant UN Security Council resolution. The question of whether or not someone charged by the ICC shows up on U.S. soil, what is the U.S. response for that, I’ll have to ask our lawyers to provide me with an answer. …

QUESTION: I heard you in your statement say that you remain committed to the process, but I didn’t hear you say that you welcomed this step by the ICC. Can you say whether you do or not?

MR. DUGUID: Well, what the United States does is we expect all parties in Darfur to cooperate with this. We want to see an end to the violence in Darfur, we want to see an end to the violence in Sudan, and we want to see those who have committed atrocities held accountable for their actions and their crimes.

QUESTION: Would you count President Bashir among those?

MR. DUGUID: We would refer you to what the ICC has said, what the international community said, what we have supported in the UN on Sudan; and it is evident that the Government of Sudan has the brunt of the responsibility for what has happened in Darfur, and he is the head of that government.

QUESTION: So you would welcome President Bashir being taken to The Hague and placed on trial?

MR. DUGUID: We would welcome an end to the conflict and violence in Darfur and a peaceful resolution to the differences between the conflicting parties.

QUESTION: So this is a helpful step, then, toward that?

MR. DUGUID: This is a helpful – this is – can be a helpful step. We will see how it proceeds from here.

QUESTION: What is the status, though, of the U.S. – of diplomatic contact with President Bashir at all? Do you still – obviously, you still recognize him as the head of state, but you know, will U.S. diplomats meet with Bashir if the opportunity arises?

MR. DUGUID: We already carefully consider contact with Sudanese Government officials based on a need to try and help resolve the crisis. For example, the United States does not maintain full diplomatic relations with Sudan. We only have a chargé in place at the Embassy. But because we take the court’s actions very seriously, any official contacts with President Bashir would have to be carefully reviewed on a case-by-case basis, very mindful of the indictment. …

MR. DUGUID: This was taken by the ICC, to which we are not a party and not a signatory; therefore, I am stating what our position is. Things that then run from the ICC’s own train of events, I have to refer you to the ICC.

QUESTION: Well, but I mean, were you – did you cooperate with the court? Did you provide the court information? You’ve always said that even though you’re not a party to the court, you can still cooperate with the court on —

MR. DUGUID: I’m not at liberty to discuss whatever diplomatic communication we may have had with the court. We do see this as a step that the Sudanese Government should take seriously and respond to in a positive manner in order to try and end the violence in Darfur.

QUESTION: Whether or not you cooperate with the court, does the United States have independent evidence that Bashir and his aides have committed war crimes?

MR. DUGUID: As it’s now a matter for a court, I think I should refrain from making a statement on what might influence that court’s decisions.

QUESTION: Can I go back to the Bashir thing for one second?

MR. DUGUID: Yes.

QUESTION: You said that any contact with Bashir would have to be considered very carefully on a case-by-case basis —Well, does that mean that you will or you won’t meet with him?

MR. DUGUID: That means that should that opportunity present itself, we would have to consider that very, very carefully in light of our – of any obligations that might be laid upon us due to the ICC warrant; also, any possible ramifications that it would present, given the situation on the ground at the time.


US MISSION TO THE UN

The United States supports the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) actions to hold accountable those responsible for the heinous crimes in Darfur. We remain determined in our pursuit of both peace and justice in Sudan. The people of Sudan have suffered too much for too long, and an end to their anguish will not come easily. Those who committed atrocities in Sudan, including genocide, should be brought to justice. U.N. Security Council Resolution 1593, which referred the crimes in Darfur to the ICC, requires the Government of Sudan and all other parties to the conflict to cooperate fully with the ICC and its prosecutor and urges all states and concerned regional organizations to cooperate fully.

The United States expects restraint from all involved – the Government of Sudan, armed rebel groups, and others. No one should use the ICC’s decision as a pretext to incite or launch violence against civilians or international personnel. The safety and security of all civilians, international personnel, and UN and African Union peacekeepers in Sudan must be respected. We will continue to work with all parties for the full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement to bring an end to the conflict between North and South Sudan. The U.S. urges all parties to engage seriously with the Joint Chief Mediator of the UN and the African Union, Djibril Bassole, as he works to halt the hostilities in Darfur and to forge a political settlement that will bring lasting peace, justice, and security to the people of Darfur.

MEMBERS OF CONGRESS

Rep. Patrick Kennedy:

Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy (D-RI) issued the following statement after the International Criminal Court’s issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for war crimes in the conflict in western Darfur.

“Today, the International Criminal Court took the first step towards bringing the perpetrators of the violence in Darfur to justice. For far too long, President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has violated human rights and committed heinous acts of violence against civilians in Sudan. We cannot afford to delay or stall while innocent people continued to be slaughtered in Darfur. Today, the International Criminal Court has demonstrated its moral authority by holding accountable those who are responsible for war crimes and now the United States must demonstrate its leadership in global justice by renewing its commitment to the Court’s mandate. Only then will the International Criminal Court have the tools at its disposal to prosecute and try those who commit mass murder and other crimes against humanity around the world,” said Kennedy.

Rep. Don Payne:

This is a step towards justice for the millions of victims that have suffered under this regime.  Perhaps it gives hope to the six year-old children, born in the IDP and refugee camps, that one day they might know peace.

Over the past two decades, the Bashir Government planned and executed genocide and crimes against humanity in Darfur, South Sudan, Nuba, and the East. In South Sudan alone more than two million people were killed; many of these victims were women and children. For the sake of peace and reconciliation, the people of South Sudan did not push for justice

and accountability. This was an opportunity for Bashir to turn over a new leaf. Instead of learning from his mistakes, Bashir and his cronies once again planned and executed genocide in Darfur.

There are those who assert that the issuance of an arrest warrant could trigger another war and damage the prospect of a peace agreement. However, denying justice and condoning

impunity for the scant hope of peace is no peace at all. There can never be true democracy or lasting peace without holding the feet of those responsible to the fire. The millions of Darfuris who have been adversely affected by Bashir’s puppeteering deserve justice. The many peace agreements signed with this regime over the past decade have not brought about a just peace in Sudan.

The ultimate objective in Sudan should be to bring a just and lasting peace. For those who doubt the evil intent of the Bashir regime, you don’t have far to look. Ask the people of Abyei what happened last year. Ask the people of Malakal what happened last week. Don’t forget the millions in the displaced and refugee camps in Darfur and eastern Chad.

For far too long we have allowed Khartoum to get away with state-sanctioned genocide. This move by the ICC gives hope that the world will no longer look away.

I hope the Obama Administration uses this opportunity to push for justice and peace in Sudan.

Sen. Russ Feingold:

“I am pleased that the International Criminal Court continues to work to bring to justice those most responsible for the genocide in Darfur.  I urge the Obama administration to oppose any temporary suspension of the indictment at this time. If there is significant progress made toward ending violence on the ground in Darfur, it may be appropriate to consider a suspension at that time. But I do share concerns about the potential for backlash against peacekeepers, humanitarian workers and other foreigners.  Deliberate retaliatory attacks led by the government would have dire consequences.  I urge all parties to exercise restraint and commit in good faith to return to peace talks.”

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About Martha Heinemann Bixby

Advocacy. Politics. Life. Martha Heinemann Bixby.
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One Response to “A Helpful Step”: US Government Response to ICC indictment

  1. Pingback: Anthony Clark Arend » US Government response to the Al-Bashir Arrest Warrant

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