An exchange during today’s State Department briefing offers some insight into the administration’s position towards the ICC’s arrest warrant for President Bashir and recent events on the ground in Sudan. See below for the exchange between reporters and State Department Spokesman Gordon Duguid.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction now to the expulsion of these aid groups who were working in Darfur, or Sudan, generally?
MR. DUGUID: The action was announced, and it’s unclear whether it was announced by the government or the particular commission that oversees the aid groups in Sudan, seems to me to be against Sudan’s own interest, and is certainly not helpful to the people who need aid in the country. They should reconsider their position on this, because the vulnerable populations throughout Sudan rely heavily on international organizations who deliver them much needed aid.
QUESTION: And are you doing anything — is the U.S. Government doing anything to try and convince the Sudanese Government to —
MR. DUGUID: A number of countries are trying to convince the Sudanese Government to reconsider this action.
QUESTION: And is the United States one of them?
MR. DUGUID: The United States is one of them.
QUESTION: And how exactly are you doing that?
MR. DUGUID: We are doing that both on the ground and in New York.
QUESTION: On the ground, meaning Khartoum?
MR. DUGUID: Meaning Khartoum.
Other questions? Yes, please.
QUESTION: The Chinese have come out and said that they would like the ICC to pull back on this and get rid of the warrant. What do you think about that?
MR. DUGUID: The — there are a couple of different moves that some nations have proposed. As the United States — as we noted yesterday, what we are looking for is a resolution to the conflicts in Sudan. This current move by the ICC has added a lever, if you will, with which to try and achieve that. Those who are guilty of crimes against humanity should face justice. The delay or deferment of the ICC warrant is not something that the United States is looking at right now. Same subject?
QUESTION: Yeah, on this. I’m just — it’s added a lever?
MR. DUGUID: Yes.
MR. DUGUID: The fact that he is now — the president is now a fugitive from justice is a lever for the international community, just as it has been in many other cases.
QUESTION: Well, he’s not — he’s a fugitive from justice in the eyes of the United States?
MR. DUGUID: He’s a fugitive from justice in the eyes of the ICC and —
QUESTION: Well, you’re not a member —
MR. DUGUID: — all of the people who supply to that.
QUESTION: — of the ICC, so I —
MR. DUGUID: That is correct. But it is still, for the international community, a lever.
QUESTION: You do not — so you’re saying that you recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC —
MR. DUGUID: We recognize —
QUESTION: — over —
MR. DUGUID: — that this is — we recognize that by the international community, this has been a move that will try and help resolve the problems in Sudan.
QUESTION: Gordon, sorry — just be specific. You recognize the ICC’s jurisdiction over the head of state of a country that like your — like the United States, is not a member of the —
MR. DUGUID: I think I’ve given you my answer. We recognize that this move by the ICC and the members of the international community who support it is a move to try and resolve the problems in Sudan.
QUESTION: Yeah, but you say the United States considers him a fugitive from justice, but you don’t recognize that —
MR. DUGUID: I just said that he is a fugitive from justice under the court issued by — the warrant issued by the ICC. You are correct. The United States is not a member of the ICC.
QUESTION: And neither is Sudan, so why — so if he — if his own country doesn’t recognize the jurisdiction of this court, how can you?
MR. DUGUID: There are a number of leaders or instances in which the particular country did not recognize the jurisdiction of a court, and yet the leader was brought to trial and was brought to justice.
QUESTION: Right, but in most of those cases, the United States had — in fact, in all of them, the United States has supported them. You know, this (inaudible).
MR. DUGUID: In this particular instance, you are right — you are correct. On our position, or our relationship to the court, that does not lessen the members of that court’s ability or determination to try and affect what they have said in —
QUESTION: Well, can someone check with the lawyers on this? I don’t understand how it is that you are — you are basically supporting, or giving your backing to the — to ICC jurisdiction over —
MR. DUGUID: We are recognizing that —
QUESTION: — over a person who’s — over the head of a country that does not — that like yourself, doesn’t recognize the ICC.
MR. DUGUID: We are recognizing that the international community, through the ICC, is taking actions to try and help resolve the problems in Sudan and try and bring to justice those who they charge with crimes against humanity. The United States also believes that crimes against humanity have been committed in Darfur.
QUESTION: And what — and the appropriate way to bring to justice those who committed those atrocities is through the ICC?
MR. DUGUID: That is one way that a number of members of the international community have moved forward.