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Sudan’s Bashir Addresses ICC Charges, Darfur’s Woes

Sudanese President al-Bashir faces an international warrant in connection with war crimes in Darfur. In an interview, he reflects on the charges, the Darfur crisis and Sudan's relations with the West.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Now, the president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir. Last March, he was indicted by the international criminal court for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

    Last week, he was interviewed in the capital of Khartoum. That interview was a collaboration between the NewsHour and Time magazine.

    NewsHour correspondent Simon Marks narrates our report.

  • SIMON MARKS:

    He is one of the world's most-wanted men. The president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, risks arrest by order of the International Criminal Court based in the Hague if he travels outside his own country's borders.

    But in Khartoum last week, he told Time magazine's Sam Dealey the restrictions on his movement are no big deal.

    OMAR AL-BASHIR, president, Sudan: Up until now, I haven't felt restrictions on my movement. I am not a minister of foreign affairs where I am supposed to travel frequently to other countries, conferences and meetings. A president has his deputies, assistants, and his specialized ministers, so it's not necessary for a president to travel to every country. But I have made all necessary travels.

  • SIMON MARKS:

    In fact, as soon as he made history, becoming the first sitting president of a country to face an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court, he hit the road.

    He's visited friendly countries, including Zimbabwe and Ethiopia, participated in the Hajj in Saudi Arabia, and attended an Arab League summit in Qatar.

    Last month, the African Union declared its member states would not enforce the ICC's arrest warrant.

    The charges President al-Bashir faces — war crimes and crimes against humanity — relate to atrocities committed in the Sudanese region of Darfur over the last six years. There, the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations estimate more than a quarter of a million people have died and at least 2.5 million have been displaced in a conflict that pits predominantly African rebel groups against the Arab-dominated government and its allied militias.

    President al-Bashir told us he rejects the numbers.

    SAM DEALEY, Time correspondent: Do you still maintain that only 10,000 have died in Darfur?

  • OMAR AL-BASHIR (through translator):

    This is what we believe the number to be, according to all the events that have taken place in Darfur.

  • SIMON MARKS:

    And he also rejects the International Criminal Court itself, which was founded by international statute in 2002.

  • OMAR AL-BASHIR (through translator):

    The International Criminal Court is a political court, not a court of justice.

  • SAM DEALEY:

    So you believe the ICC is an illegitimate organization?

  • OMAR AL-BASHIR (through translator):

    We think that the ICC is a tool to terrorize countries that the West thinks are disobedient. The African position today, by consensus, is not to cooperate with this court, and it has reached a conclusion that this court is directed against the countries of the third world and a tool of neocolonialism.

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