ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
And I'm Melissa Block.
Today in The Hague, judges at the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for the president of Sudan, Omar Hassan al-Bashir. It's the first arrest warrant issued by the ICC for a sitting head of state. The court named Bashir as an indirect co-perpetrator on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The warrant details Bashir's alleged crimes against civilians in Darfur.
U: Murdering, exterminating, raping, torturing and forcibly transferring large numbers of civilians and pillaging their property.
BLOCK: But the court said there was not enough evidence to charge Bashir with the crime of genocide. In a moment we'll hear from the chief prosecutor at the ICC, but first, we go to the capital of Sudan, Khartoum. Edmund Sanders of the L.A. Times is there. And Mr. Sanders, what sort of reaction has there been from the Sudanese government to this arrest warrant for the president?
BLOCK: What we know is that about half a dozen aid groups, possibly more, have received notice from the government that their licenses to operate in Darfur are going to be revoked. The government had been threatening to do this, really, for months. It's part of their campaign, ever since the arrest warrant was announced, against foreign aid groups whom they suspect of providing information to the ICC that enabled them to build a case against Bashir. So, if these efforts go through against aid groups like Oxfam and Doctors Without Borders, it has a devastating impact on displaced people in Darfur who really are living off of this $1 billion humanitarian effort from foreign aid groups.
BLOCK: We heard President Bashir yesterday basically taunting the International Criminal Court, telling them they could eat their warrant when it came. Are you able to gauge at all how the people there in Khartoum are reacting to this?
BLOCK: It's a mixed reaction. Certainly Bashir has some supporters and some people will come forward and say that they think this is unfair. But one interesting element is that the case really has stirred up some nationalist sentiment. So even people that are not fans of Bashir, people that oppose Bashir, will say that they really don't like the ICC coming in and trying to arrest their president or telling them what they should do. Even a human rights activist I was talking to was saying this is something that should come from within Sudan.
BLOCK: How solid is President Bashir's hold on power? I mean, would there be a scenario where rogue elements would seize power and turn him over to the court for prosecution?
BLOCK: That's certainly possible. And, I mean, the Sudanese inner circle is very mysterious. But one thing that Bashir has going for him, really, right now is that there is no clear successor. There's no one that everyone can agree upon. So even though there are a few figures out there who potentially could become the new president, there's really no agreement on that.
And so people are very concerned that if Bashir were to be arrested, were he to be pushed aside, that it would just create a real chaos in the country and people are more afraid, I suppose, of that chaos and that unknown of the future than they are of letting Bashir stay in power.
So he has that working to his advantage to some degree. People are afraid that Islamic extremists in Sudan might take over or the military might take over, so that's working to his advantage.
BLOCK: Mr. Sanders, thanks for talking with us.
BLOCK: Sure, thank you very much.
BLOCK: That's L.A. Times correspondent Edmund Sanders speaking with us from Khartoum, Sudan. Now to The Hague and to the chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno-Ocampo. Is this a day of vindication for you?
BLOCK: No. I think it's an important day for the victims in Darfur. First, because they always were saying the same - Mr. Bashir is responsible and now the court found evidence showing that Mr. Omar al-Bashir is responsible for serious crimes - crimes against humanity and war crimes.
But the important aspect is that the internationally neglected as a crime at what happened at camps today. And the court, this time, recognized what happened in the camp for displaced people today, is a crime against humanity, extermination. 2.5 million people that is dying slowing in the camps today.
BLOCK: Now, the judges at the court stopped short, though, of charging President Bashir with genocide, which you had sought. They said you hadn't provided enough evidence to show his specific intent to destroy populations in Darfur. How disappointed are you in that fact?
BLOCK: No, no, no, no. This is a court of justice, the court - the judges have to evaluate the evidence, we are reading the decision. In fact, two judges say we would like to have more evidence and the other judge say it's genocide. So we are now analyzing, we can do three different things, we can provide more evidence, we can appeal or we can just stay quiet and focus on the rest, and keep the crimes against humanity as extermination - as a crime against humanity who's pretty close to genocide. So we discuss what to do, but then, the bottom line here is arresting Bashir is a priority now. And stopping the crime is urgent because, if not, these people will die.
BLOCK: Let's talk about the practicalities of how President Bashir might be arrested and turned over to the court for trial.
BLOCK: Sudan, as you know, obviously, is not a party to the International Criminal Court. How do you imagine that Mr. Bashir would be turned in?
BLOCK: But Sudan is a member of the U.N. And as a member of the U.N. they had to respect the Security Council resolutions. That's why...
BLOCK: But they have said they have no intention of doing that.
BLOCK: Okay, but Sudan is not a failed state. They have to be respectful and, if not, the Security Council has to take measures to ensure the execution of the warrant. But in the meantime, let me say something very clearly, as soon Mr. Omar al-Bashir travels to international airspace, his plane can be intercepted and he can be arrested.
Let me say something, we planned this type of operation before, against Mr. Haroun and he - we had everything ready. So I suppose we can do it again this time for Mr. al-Bashir.
BLOCK: You're talking about another Sudanese official who's being tried by the ICC?
BLOCK: Yeah. Ahmed Haroun was a minister of interior that we charged, also. And he was traveling outside Sudan to Saudi Arabia. And then we organized a system to arrest him in the air. So I will say the destiny of Mr. Omar al-Bashir is to face justice. It will take two months or two years, but he will face justice.
BLOCK: I'm not hearing those strong voices of support from the international community saying we plan to act on these arrest warrants.
BLOCK: Maybe they come now.
BLOCK: You think that's the message from today?
BLOCK: I think the court today changed completely the situation. It's a new chapter which starts right now, different scenario.
BLOCK: And what do you say the message is to the people of Darfur, that this arrest warrant is now issued for the president of Sudan?
BLOCK: We are working for them. Their voices will be listened. We'll respect their rights. We'll respect their interest. We'll do the maximum effort possible to protect them.
BLOCK: And what do you see the intersection being between justice there in the Hague and peace in Sudan?
BLOCK: But now it is clear. You want peace? Arrest Mr. Omar al-Bashir and you will - much better situation for the people in Darfur.
BLOCK: Mr. Moreno-Ocampo, thanks very much for talking with us.
BLOCK: Thank you very much.
BLOCK: Luis Moreno-Ocampo is the chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court at The Hague.