KHARTOUM (AFP) – Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on Saturday hailed the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) suspension of its investigations into alleged war crimes in Darfur, accusing it of trying to “humiliate and subjugate” his country.
Bashir is wanted by the ICC over alleged war crimes in the western region, where the government has been trying to crush an insurgency since 2003.
The ICC’s prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said on Friday she was halting investigations to “shift resources to other urgent cases”, and criticised the UN Security Council for failing to push for Bashir’s arrest.
Bashir said in a speech in Khartoum that the decision came about “because of the Sudanese people’s refusal to be humiliated and to kneel down”, state news agency SUNA reported.
He called the ICC one of the “tools aimed to humiliate and subjugate” Sudan, SUNA said.
Bensouda’s decision to halt the Darfur investigations comes amid rising difficulties for the ICC, which dropped charges of crimes against humanity against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta last week.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Friday called on African countries to withdraw from the ICC, saying the court had become a “tool to target” the continent.
Darfur erupted into conflict in 2003 when ethnic insurgents rebelled against the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum, complaining they were being marginalised.
The UN says the unrest in Darfur has killed 300,000 people and displaced two million, while the government puts the death toll at around 10,000.
The UN Security Council remains deeply divided over the Darfur crisis, with China a key ally of the Khartoum regime.
Bensouda warned that without action on Darfur from the Security Council, the cases against Bashir and three other indicted Sudanese suspects would remain deadlocked.
“What is needed is a dramatic shift in this council’s approach to arresting Darfur suspects,” Bensouda told the 15-member council.
She also said allegations that Sudanese forces raped 200 women and girls in a Darfur village in late October “should shock this council into action”.
Khartoum has refused to allow the UN-African Union mission in Darfur to fully investigate the incident since a first visit by peacekeepers to the village of Tabit in November took place under heavy Sudanese military presence.
Sudan has since asked UNAMID to form an exit strategy from the region, and Bashir hinted on Saturday that his government would not change its mind due to outside pressure because “no one will impose their opinion on Sudan”.
Bashir, who has ruled Sudan for 25 years, became the first sitting head of state to be indicted by the ICC in 2009, but he has since continued to travel to countries that have been unwilling to take him into custody.
Over the past months, he travelled to Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Ethiopia, which were asked by the court to arrest him.