(AA) – Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has hailed a decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to suspend its investigation into alleged crimes in Sudan’s western Darfur region.
“The ICC accusations were an attempt to subjugate and humiliate [Sudan], but now it took off its hands and gave up,” Bashir said in a Saturday speech to Sudanese farmers on capital Khartoum.
Al-Bashir is wanted by the ICC on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing in Darfur.
“The court’s failure is not due to Sudan’s refusal to cooperate, but because of the people’s refusal,” Bashir said, describing the charges as “politicized” and “a colonial tool directed against Africans.”
On Friday, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced that she will suspend investigations in Darfur, citing lack of action by the UN.
In 2009, the Hague-based court charged Bashir with war crimes and crimes against humanity – the first time the court sought the arrest of a sitting head of state. A second arrest warrant followed in 2010 that charged Bashir with genocide.
“Given this council’s lack of foresight on what should happen in Darfur, I am left with no choice but to hibernate investigative activities in Darfur as I shift resources to other urgent cases,” said Bensouda.
She said that the security situation in the region was deteriorating and the brutality of crimes being committed was becoming more pronounced.
Security Council action on Sudan appears unlikely, as China, one of the five permanent members yielding veto power, has been a long-time ally of the Khartoum government.
The Rome Statute, which established the ICC, reserves a role for the Security Council that can refer humanitarian crimes committed in any state, regardless of whether it is a party to the treaty.
The Sudanese government, which has not ratified the statute, denied the charges and proclaimed Bashir’s innocence.
The UN says that as many as 300,000 may have died in Darfur since 2003 when a long simmering ethnic conflict turned into a bloody civil war between rebel groups and Sudanese government forces.
Two million people have been forced to flee their homes with hundreds of thousands going westward to refugee camps in neighboring Chad.