Southern Sudan Government urges restraint in response to Bashir arrest warrant


Ezekiel Gatkuoth is GOSS chief diplomat in Washington
The government of Southern Sudan is reacting to the ICC arrest warrant for the Sudanese president. Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, head of mission to the United States for the Southern Sudan government and member of the SPLM Party leadership, says, "We have actually been calling for the National Congress Party to cooperate with ICC. And of course, as it is issued now, we have told them they need to receive this with restraint and calm and not to spread violence because it will have a lot of implications on our country. We are actually asking the National Congress Party and the Sudanese to deal with this legally."


Asked if dealing with it legally means President Bashir resigning, Gatkuoth says, "That is actually going to be up to the National Congress Party, how they're going to deal with this. But it is actually a legal matter. It is not actually a political issue…. And they need to cooperate with the ICC in whatever way they can do this."

Some fear the arrest warrant will threaten the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). However, he says, "I don't think so because there is no correlation between the ICC and the CPA. The ICC issued (the warrant) because of the atrocities committed in Darfur…. But of course we are worried because if there is any instability in the whole country, it means also everything will be affected, not only the CPA, but the whole region as a whole will be affected."

Gatkuoth says the SPLM is ready to assist in whatever way possible. "His Excellency, President Salva Kiir…is willing to help…in his capacity as vice-president of the Republic of Sudan."

Other reaction to the ICC arrest warrant came from a joint news conference hosted by the ENOUGH Project. John Norris, executive director of the group, says, "I think this is a very good day for international justice. I think it's a very good day for improved prospects for peace in Sudan."

He responds to those who suggest the warrant will mean an increase in violence. "I think that simply isn't borne out by the international experience to date," he says. And while it's unclear how President Bashir would be brought before the court, a trial, he says, is possible. "There's no obvious vehicle to deliver Bashir to the court immediately, but as we have seen with Charles Taylor…as we have seen with the more than 50 people who were convicted by the tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, justice does find a way."

ENOUGH co-founder John Prendergast says, "From interviewing countless numbers of displaced and war-affected Darfurians they don't see a tension between justice and peace. They feel it would be impossible to have peace without justice. These refugees and displaced people that have been…the visible impact of the crimes against humanity that have unfolded in Darfur put the problems I think in the clearest of terms…. How can you have peace when the president of Sudan has tried to exterminate us?"

Prendergast says the warrant will cause China and the Arab world to reevaluate their relationship with Sudan. China has major oil interests in Sudan.

Also commenting on the ICC action is David Crane, former chief prosecution for the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone, who describes the warrant as "facing down the beast of impunity." Crane signed the indictment against former Liberian leader Charles Taylor, who's currently on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity in connection with the Sierra Leone civil war. Crane adds, "This indictment…will bring peace. I think that the president of Sudan's political support will begin to soften and dry up as people pull away because no one wants to be seen or deal with an indicted war criminal."

Crane says although Mr. Bashir was not charged with genocide, the full story of Darfur will be told. "I don't think it's a moment to be disheartened by the fact that the charge of genocide was not returned. This issue being: has the gravamen [seriousness] of the offenses against the people of Darfur still been framed in the indictment? And the answer is it has. Be mindful of semantic issues related to what we call what has been going on. There's still some debate as to whether it was or was not genocide. But at the end of the day, the end result is we have a prosecution for the horror story that was Darfur."

Crane adds, "The world will know what the president of Sudan has done as well as his cohorts." 

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