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PM opposes ICC’s Bashir indictment

PRIME Minister Hun Sen has condemned the International Criminal Court (ICC) for issuing a warrant for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, telling a Sudanese official the indictment could “adversely affect” peace negotiations in the war-torn African nation.

Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that during a meeting last week, Hun Sen told Sudanese Special Envoy and Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Ahmet Karti Mohamed that he shared Khartoum’s opposition to the indictment of its head of state.

“During the meeting, Samdech Hun Sen said that the warrant issued by the ICC for the purpose of arresting Omar al-Bashir, an incumbent president, undermines the peace negotiation process,” Koy Kuong said Tuesday.

In March 2009, the ICC, which sits in The Hague, issued an arrest warrant for Bashir on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for atrocities allegedly committed in the Darfur region. He is the first sitting head of state ever to be indicted by the ICC.

Hun Sen’s comments, which were reported Tuesday by the Non-Aligned Movement News Network, are similar to his earlier criticisms of internationally-backed legal proceedings underway in Cambodia – in particular, the proposed increase in the number of former Khmer Rouge figures who could be tried by the Khmer Rouge tribunal. Last September, the premier warned that pursuing further indictments risked sparking civil unrest.

Anne Heindel, a legal adviser for the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, described Hun Sen’s comments on the ICC as “notable”, but said they gave no clear indication of his views on the Khmer Rouge tribunal given the many differences between the two institutions.

As a signatory of the Rome Statute of the ICC, she said, Cambodia should support its work, but she added that the efficacy of the Bashir indictment – and indictments of sitting heads of state more generally – was a subject of hot debate.

“The jury’s out on whether [such indictments] contribute to peace or whether they hinder peace,” she said.

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