Britain did not fully back Bashir ICC indictment

February 6, 2011 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 6 – Newly leaked US diplomatic cables show that the British government did not fully back the indictment of Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir by the international Criminal Court.

The cables released last week listing correspondence between the US embassy in London and Washington show that Her Majesty\’s Government (HMG) did not espouse a hard-line approach in support of the ICC, even though it pressed the Government of Sudan (GoS) to cooperate with the ICC.

"Although HMG will not acknowledge it publicly, the UK is doing everything it can to remain flexible on the ICC and to use Bashir\’s potential indictment as a lever to change the dynamic on the Darfur political process and to spur CPA (Comprehensive Peace Agreement) implementation," the cable states.

It was also agreed that CPA should be central to HMG policy and that Prime Minister Gordon Brown\’s offer to help in the Darfur political talks should remain on the table, but not be an active element of the UK\’s policy. "Supporting the newly appointed UN/AU Chief Mediator and encouraging civil society integration in the process will be the main focus of the UK\’s policy for Darfur."

The cables reveal how Mr Bashir remained "surprisingly calm" in the face of the indictment and that his government had agreed to engage the ICC; work for a rapid broad-based solution to the conflict in Darfur, including establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission; and to work for a united position with other political parties to promote national reconciliation and help turn the indictment into something positive.

First Vice President Salva Kiir reportedly agreed that the Sudan Peoples\’ Liberation Movement would remain in the Government of National Unity and work to address the crisis caused by the ICC announcement of Mr Bashir\’s indictment.

"The two parties agreed to establish a joint crisis management  committee, chaired by Kiir and to include Second Vice President (Osman) Taha, Foreign Minister Deng Alor, and the Ministers of Justice and Information," the cables state.

The UK Foreign Secretary at the time David Miliband made a whirlwind trip of less than 24 hours to Sudan on July 9, 2008 where he discussed the CPA, Darfur, Sudan-Chad relations, and the 2011 referendum on the self determination of the South.

"His meetings included calls on President Bashir, Foreign Secretary Deng Alor, Senior President Advisor Nafie Ali Nafie, and National Security and Intelligence Director Salah al Gosh."

The meeting between Mr Miliband and Mr Bashir was described as "largely constructive and cordial."

"Miliband privately raised the ICC with Bashir in a one-on-one meeting to communicate the urgency for the GoS to engage the ICC, encouraging Bashir not to turn his back on the international community."

The cables instructively add: "As an architect of the ICC and one of its most staunch supporters, HMG is in a difficult position over the ICC\’s potential indictment of Bashir, which it sees as unhelpful.  Although there is no clear end-game in mind, HMG seems happy to walk the fine line of pushing GoS engagement with the ICC while also looking to make Bashir\’s potential indictment the element that changes the dynamics on Darfur and encourages CPA implementation."

It concludes: "HMG\’s public message on the ICC will likely remain supportive, while the UK will likely pursue a more flexible policy at the UN and in its dialogue with Khartoum."

Subsequent cables say that after calls by Chinese and Russian permanent representatives in New York to suspend the ICC investigations on the indictment of Sudanese President Bashir and other regime higher-up, the Foreign Office decided to remain flexible on its strong support for the ICC.

"Among UK officials, there is growing scepticism that a Bashir indictment will actually be an \’apocalyptic event,\’ even if it could cause drastic damage to the UK\’s current policy of engagement with Bashir\’s regime in Khartoum," the cables say.

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