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ICC prosecutor making case for Sudan leader arrest as UN General Assembly meets

[JURIST] International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] traveled to New York Monday to seek support [press release] from members of the United Nations and the African Union for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir [BBC profile, JURIST news archive], as the UN General Assembly opened its 63rd annual session Tuesday. Moreno-Ocampo has faced criticism from international leaders and organizations [JURIST reports] for his July application for a warrant to arrest Bashir [JURIST report] on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for atrocities committed in Darfur. On Monday, the Organization of the Islamic Conference joined calls [IHT report] for the ICC to delay any prosecution until peace negotiations with Sudan have been exhausted. The UN Security Council (UNSC) has authority [Rome Statute Article 16 text, PDF; HRW backgrounder] to suspend ICC prosecution for one year, [AFP report] if the move is backed by a majority vote and a consensus among its five permanent members. Last week, France - a UNSC permanent member - suggested that such suspension may be appropriate as a "gesture" [AFP report] to encourage more Sudanese cooperation in peacekeeping efforts.

In August, Bashir threatened to ignore any ICC-issued arrest warrant, saying he would not "deal with or respond to" the ICC. Moreno-Ocampo has criticized Sudan's own investigation [JURIST reports] of war crimes in Darfur, calling it "part of the cover-up." Sudan's justice minister recently appointed several prosecutors to locally investigate and try war crimes suspects in internationally monitored courts [JURIST reports]. Criticism of Moreno-Ocampo's warrant application from the African Union (AU) and Arab League [official website, in Arabic], among others, stems from the belief that the move threatens to destabilize the region and poses a risk to joint AU-UN peacekeeping forces in the country.

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