Sudan's Bashir urged to hand over suspects


Sudan's president could escape war crimes charges if he brings to justice two men suspected of mass killings, Western envoys have said.

International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, asked the ICC on Monday to issue an arrest warrant for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on suspicion of crimes against humanity.

Mr Moreno-Ocampo accused Mr Bashir of a campaign of genocide that killed 35,000 people outright and forced 2.5 million to flee their homes in Sudan's western Darfur region.

But Western diplomats say Mr Bashir could escape indictment if he ended what they see as impunity for two men the ICC charged last year over Darfur. Khartoum has not handed them to the court or started legal proceedings in Sudan to investigate the allegations.

French ambassador to the UN Jean-Maurice Ripert and British ambassador John Sawers said it was "not too late" for the Sudanese authorities to co-operate with the ICC over the indictment of Humanitarian Affairs Minister Ahmed Haroun and former Janjaweed militia commander Ali Kushayb.

Sudan, China and South Africa have expressed concern that a formal indictment of Mr Bashir could damage the stalled peace process aimed at ending the five-year-old conflict in Darfur.

UN peacekeeping officials and national diplomats fear an arrest warrant against Mr Bashir could provoke a wave of violence against the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping force, or prompt Khartoum to order all international peacekeepers in Sudan out of the country.

Sudan's UN envoy, Abdalmahmoud Abdalhaleem, said he was in talks with the Russians and Chinese to find a way for the Security Council to use its power to freeze any ICC moves.

ICC judges are not expected to issue a ruling on Mr Moreno-Ocampo's recommendation until October or November.