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Darfur Mission Is Extended as U.S. Abstains, Indictment of Bashir Denounced by China and "Majority"

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, July 31/August 1 -- The joint African Union - UN peacekeeping mission in Darfur UNAMID had its mandate extended with less than two hours remaining, after the voting was delayed for more than six hours by demands for changes by the U.S., which ended up abstaining. At issue was a paragraph "taking note of the African Union communique" which called for suspension of the International Criminal Court indictment of Sudanese president Omar Al Bashir. The U.S. wanted the reference removed, saying it would send the wrong message to Bashir. But even the UK and France, even Croatia and Costa Rica, voted for the resolution with the paragraph in. Does this mean that the U.S. is more committed that these other countries to the cause of international criminal justice, even to the ICC?

    As the vote kept being put off, questions mounted about why the U.S. had let things get this far, to a finalized draft, hours before the mandate expired, without having even one other country supporting its position. Ironically, some compared it to the vote earlier in the month on imposing sanctions on Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe, in which the U.S. among others thought, particularly after Russia's seemingly pro-sanctions statement at the G-8 meeting in Japan, that China would be left standing alone as the only veto-wielding member with Mugabe, and thus might abstain. On that vote, Russia joined China in a rare double veto, three others voted no, and one abstained. Here, it was the U.S. which stood alone, isolated as it were, with no other country with it.

   While the explanations of vote were still ongoing in the Council chamber, Inner City Press asked Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangwa if and when China will move in the Council for a resolution seeking to suspend prosecution against Al Bashir under Article 16 of the ICC's Rome Statute. "We do hope that in the next couple weeks all the interested parties should get together," Amb. Wang said.

  Inner City Press asked, since the U.S. abstained even from mentioning suspension, whether it was possible they would vote to suspend. "Differing members have different interpretations," Amb. Wang said, but "in the Security council all council member, particularly the permanent members, we must take up our political responsibility." Some thought he meant that the public position of U.S. -- and others that will ultimate vote with it -- amounts to grandstanding that makes achieving a peace deal in Sudan more difficult.

  Another few is that since Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has not yet succeed in convicting through the ICC a single defendant, he was arrogant to indict Sudan's president at this time. Supporters of the ICC won't say it, because that would be viewed as undermining the ICC. But perhaps it is Moreno-Ocampo himself who is, in this instance, undermining the ICC.

  Inner City Press asked Amb. John Sawers of the UK what he thought of Russia's and China's argument that two thirds of the member states of the UN support the position that the indictment should be suspended. Amb. Sawers responded, in essence, that on other issues he doesn't see them citing to the views of the majority of states.

UNAMID vehicle, mandate extension rift not shown

  While the French mission did not speak to the press at the stakeout on Thursday evening -- France's explanation after the vote was delivered in the Chamber by the mission's political counsellor Nicolas de Riviere -- a statement was issued attributed to Deputy Permanent Representative Jean-Pierre Lacroix, that "on the AU request regarding the ICC prosecutor's recommendations, we do not think that the current situation regarding Khartoum's cooperation on all these issues warrants taking action at the Council at this stage."  This echoed a statement made earlier in the month by Permanent Representative Jean-Maurice Ripert, that if President Bashir were to turn over the indictee Ali Kushayb and Ahmad Harun, it might be helpful in terms of his own indictment.  It must be noted, however, that Moreno-Ocampo has charged Bashir with far more than non-cooperation. Absent a Council resolution, it is hard to see how the ICC process would stop.

  Inner City Press asked U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative Alejandro Wolff to explain his statement that the construction of infrastructure for peacekeepers in Darfur must speed up, in light of the UN report that the no-bid contractor Lockheed Martin, a U.S.-based firm, has under-performed in Darfur. We are all to blame, Amb. Wolff said, listing the UN, the international community and "especially" Sudan. He did not list Lockheed Martin, although the UN's report did. Will Lockheed be returning some of the money? We will continue to follow these stories.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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