Wednesday, March 4, 2009



Tuesday, March 3 2009

UN forces in Sudan are making plans in case of violence if an international arrest warrant is issued for the country’s president, but they do not expect to be targeted, the UN peacekeeping chief has said.

The official, Mr Alain Le Roy, also said the two peacekeeping missions in Sudan had no mandate to arrest President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, and would not attempt to do so, if the International Criminal Court puts out the warrant.

Judges at court based in The Hague have said they will announce on Wednesday their response to a request by prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo for an arrest warrant for President Bashir on charges of war crimes and genocide in Darfur.

Patrolling activities

Mr Le Roy told a news conference the two missions, one in Darfur and the other monitoring a 2005 north-south peace deal in Sudan, would neither move nor change their normal patrolling activities whatever the judges ruled.

“We have contingency planning to try to react to any situation,” he said. “A decision which might affect the president of the country might have an effect on the ground, so it’s important for us to be ready to answer.”

Plans had been drawn up “in case some site is being attacked. We’ll have to see how we’ll react. I cannot give you the detail of what we are going to do,” Mr Le Roy said.

But so far, he added, “we don’t fear that at the UN mission we are specifically targeted by any group ... There is no plan either to move or to scale down our missions.”

Sudan’s State Information minister Kamal al-Ebeid said there would be “popular expressions” if the ICC issued a warrant for President Bashir, but the authorities would not allow diplomats, their missions or foreigners to be targeted.

Western embassies

Mr Le Roy said the joint UN/African Union representative in Darfur, Mr Rodolphe Adada, had received similar assurances from the Sudanese Foreign ministry.

However, the head of one of Darfur’s main rebel groups, the Justice and Equality Movement, said he expected the Khartoum government to organise demonstrations that would lead to “violence and crime.”

Some Western embassies have warned their citizens of the potential for violent protests if President Bashir is charged.

Mr Le Roy said he was concerned by rising tensions close to the border between Darfur, in western Sudan, and Chad.

Sudanese and Chadian officials have exchanged accusations of backing rebel groups in each other’s countries. Chad fears that President Bashir could retaliate against an indictment by using a proxy force to invade Chad.

Asked whether UN forces might try to arrest President Bashir if the international police organisation Interpol issues a warrant for him, Mr Le Roy said their mandate came from the Security Council, not Interpol. “We will not take that kind of action,” he said.

President Bashir dismisses the charges against him and refuses to recognize the ICC.
UN officials say that as many as 300,000 people have been killed in the Darfur conflict since 2003, while Khartoum says only 10,000 have died.

A further 2.7 million people are estimated to have been uprooted by the conflict, which began when mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms against the government, demanding better representation and infrastructure for their region. Khartoum mobilised mostly Arab militias to crush the revolt. (Reuters)