By Laura Hirahara
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa
In an interview today, Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir claimed limited responsibility for the atrocities in his country while blaming the International Criminal Court (ICC), its chief prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo, “Western” states and cited the UN figures of death and displacement as exaggerated. During the interview, al-Bashir said, “Of course, I am the president so I am responsible about everything happening in the country. . . .Everything happening, it is a responsibility. But what happened in Darfur, first of all, it was a traditional conflict taking place from the colonial days.” He said that his troops had not executed any attacks on the people in Darfur despite claims that his troops have committed ground and air strikes against thousands of civilians.
In addition, al-Bashir called Ocampo a liar who is using the ICC to promote his own political agenda. “It is a political issue and double standards, because there are obvious crimes like Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan, but [they] did not find their way to the international criminal court. . .He [Ocampo] is now working on a big campaign to add more lies,” al-Bashir said during the interview. Al-Bashir was the first head of state indicted by the court in March 2009 and has yet to be arrested. Since Sudan is not a signatory member of the ICC, they have no obligation to turn him over to the court.
During the course of the interview, al-Bashir also said the UN had grossly exaggerated the numbers of those killed and displaced by the conflict in Sudan, specifically in Darfur. The UN reports that in the last 8 years, 300,000 people have been killed in Darfur and another 2.7 million displaced. Al-Bashir claims the numbers are 10,000 and 70,000 respectively. Refuting al-Bashir’s claims, John Prendergast, co-founder of the anti-genocide organization Enough Project, stated, “In my eight trips to Darfur since 2003, the overwhelming evidence demonstrates that a government-sponsored counter-insurgency targeted non-Arab civilian populations by destroying their dwellings, their food stocks, their livestock, their water sources and anything else that would sustain life in Darfur.”
Al-Bashir also criticized the military intervention in Libya, saying “The resources of Libya like petrol make it important to other countries like France, Britain and Europe in general.” He has stated that he will support the succession of South Sudan after this year’s referendum in which an overwhelming majority of southern Sudanese voted for it. However, he has been accused most recently of funding southern generals who are organizing a rebellion against the coming split. After accusing western countries of pushing for a regime change in Sudan for the last 20 years, he claimed they were trying to satisfy a personal vendetta against him.
In response to al-Bashir’s numerous claims, Louise Arbour, a former UN high commissioner for human rights and Hague war crimes prosecutor, said, “’The crimes committed against millions of civilians in Darfur cannot simply be shrugged off. If Bashir wants to argue that he was not responsible for the atrocities, he should go to The Hague and make his case there.”
For more information, please see;
BBC– Sudan’s Bashir Accepts ‘Responsibility for Darfur War– 21 April, 2011
Sydney Morning Herald– President Accepts Responsibility for Darfur Slaughter– 22 April, 2011
The Independent– Sudan: President Concedes Blame for Genocide– 21 April, 2011
The Telegraph– Sudan’s President Accepts Responsibility for Darfur Conflict– 21 April, 2011