Global Policy Forum

France Asking UN to Refer Darfur to International Court

World Bank
March 24, 2005

France, in a direct challenge to the United States, proposed a resolution on Wednesday referring war-crime cases from Sudan to the International Criminal Court. This presented Washington with the choice of validating a tribunal it strongly opposes or casting a politically awkward veto, reports The New York Times.

The French put forward their proposal calling for a referral to the International Criminal Court, and said they would call for a vote on Thursday. The French mission said it had assurances of at least 11 votes in favor. Only nine votes are needed to pass a Security Council resolution. Asked if the resolution was in competition with the American one, Jean-Marc de la Sabliere, the French ambassador to the United Nations, said, ''No, it's a draft resolution which is complementary.'' He said it was the broad conviction of the Council that action had been put off for too long. ''We had to act now,'' he said, ''and France has shouldered its responsibilities today.'' He also noted that a paragraph of the resolution specifically exempts from investigation or prosecution citizens of countries like the United States that are not ratifiers of the court treaty.

The Associated Press and The Washington Post note that if the vote on the resolution goes ahead, the United States will have to decide whether to exercise its veto or abstain. A veto could be politically damaging because it would give the appearance that the United States opposed the punishment of those responsible for atrocities in Darfur. The United States itself has declared genocide has occurred in Darfur and demanded swift action. Meanwhile, council members expressed widespread support for the American draft resolution to send a 10,000-strong UN peacekeeping force to Sudan. They would monitor a peace accord that ended a 21-year civil war between the government and southern rebels that is unrelated to Darfur. That resolution would also address Darfur by asking UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to make recommendations on strengthening the 2,200-strong African Union force in Darfur. Diplomats said it appeared likely the peacekeeping and ICC resolutions would come to a vote on Thursday. As for the sanctions resolution, the American draft would extend an arms embargo already in force in Darfur for both black African rebel groups and the Janjaweed to include Sudan's government. It would also impose a travel ban and asset freeze against those who block peace efforts and threaten stability in Darfur. But no date has been set for a vote.

Reuters explains that the Bush administration objects to the International Criminal Court to try war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. It fears US citizens could face politically motivated prosecutions. The Bush administration, in the forefront of trying to get action on Sudan, sought to break the deadlock on Tuesday by splitting its original resolution into three. The first one, expected to be adopted on Thursday afternoon, would establish a 10,000-strong peacekeeping force to monitor a January peace accord between Khartoum and southern rebels that ended a 21-year old civil war. The second one would call for a tough arms embargo and impose travel and an assets freeze against individuals still to be named. But China, Russia and Algeria oppose this. The third draft offered options for future discussion on where to try cases: the ICC, the US-proposed Tanzania tribunal, or an African panel for "justice and reconciliation" suggested recently by Nigeria.

The Daily Star (Lebanon) finally reports hat UN chief Kofi Annan denounced at an Arab summit Wednesday the "appalling" situation in Sudan's western Darfur region and called for funds to help civilians caught up in the conflict. Annan urged Arab leaders to provide the UN with "urgent" funds for humanitarian operations in Darfur, where a rebel uprising which started two years ago has led to an estimated 180,000 dead and displaced more than 1.8 million people. "All of us must now urge the parties to negotiate in good faith and in a spirit of compromise," Annan said. "We also need substantial new funding for our humanitarian operations in Darfur," he said. "The support of Arab countries, including your urgent financial support, will be crucial."

More Information on International Justice
More Information on US Opposition to the International Criminal Court
More Information on the ICC in the Security Council
More Information on the International Criminal Court
More Information on the Power of the Veto
More Information on Sudan


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