Legal experts suspicious of ICC motives on Jordan and Bashir

Legal experts suspicious of ICC motives on Jordan and Bashir. (AFP)
Updated 11 December 2017
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Legal experts suspicious of ICC motives on Jordan and Bashir

AMMAN: Jordanian political and legal experts as well as human rights experts have questioned the motives behind the International Criminal Court (ICC) move to censure Jordan for not arresting Sudanese President Omar Bashir while attending the Arab Summit in Jordan last March.
Jordanian constitutional lawyer Mohammed Hammouri said that claims that Jordan did not cooperate with the ICC had no "actionable power" to it, noting that tens of similar decisions were taken against Israel that were not executed.
Speaking to the independent website Jordan24, the former minister of justice said that he was surprised by the claim against Jordan. “Omar Bashir has traveled to many locations in recent months and years and there has been no movement by the International Criminal Court," he said. "This action and its timing is very strange.”
The US and most Western powers have softened toward Bashir in recent years due to his decision to cooperate with them in the campaign against Daesh.
Former Jordanian Foreign Minister Kamel Abu Jaber was more blunt, saying he was certain that "Zionist hands" were behind the move. “This is not an innocent move, there are suspicious Zionist hands behind it.”
Abu Jaber dismissed the calls as worthless, saying that the US and Israel were not even members of the ICC.
Jordanian MP Tarek Khoury told Arab News that the move against Jordan should be a lesson to the government about the kind of allies it wanted. “At the very moment that Jordan has tried to act independently, the allies of Jordan, specifically the Americans, are now trying to punish our leadership for taking a position different from them on a case as important as Jerusalem.”
Muhannad Alazzeh, an international legal and human rights expert, told Arab News that there were legal and political ways to look at the case. As a principle, the Rome Statute, which regulates the working of the ICC, requires participating countries to cooperate. “Clause 7B of Article 87 stipulates that cases of countries who don’t cooperate with the court can be turned over to the Security Council,” he said.
Alazzeh, however, pointed out a legal loophole. “Clause 6 from Article 93 specifies that this applies to any member country that refuses to honor a request issued to it by the court or its prosecutor. Therefore, the key question is whether the court has made a specific request to Jordan to arrest Bashir while he was in the country last March and whether it refused to honor such a request.”
Alazzeh, a former member of the Jordanian Senate, told Arab News that the more important part of the case was the political nature of it. “Bashir was in Jordan more than six months ago and nothing was made of it. The fact that this is being discussed now raises a question about the true motivation behind it. If the goal of the ICC is to carry out justice and to arrest Bashir as a wanted individual, why has it been silent for all this period?”
Alazzeh also said that the Human Rights Watch and the Human Rights Commissioner spoke on this issue last March but the court was silent then. “It seems to me that the move reflects the fact that the Jordanian people and officials are in sync in opposing the US position on Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”
Reuters said on Monday that the ICC is considering referring Jordan to the UN Security Council for failing to arrest Bashir when he visited Amman in March.
The court had issued arrest warrants for Bashir in 2009 and 2010 over his alleged role in war crimes including genocide in Sudan’s Darfur province. Jordan, as a member of the ICC, is obliged to carry out its arrest warrants.
But Jordan is not known to have rejected any direct request to extradite Bashir as the Rome Statues regulating the ICC requires.
The Security Council has the power to impose sanctions for a failure to cooperate with the ICC, but so far has not acted on the court referrals.


US, allies set to evacuate Syrian aid workers from southwest

Updated 20 July 2018
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US, allies set to evacuate Syrian aid workers from southwest

  • US officials say the United States is finalizing plans to evacuate several hundred Syrian civil defense workers and their families from southwest Syria
  • Two officials familiar with the plans said Thursday that the US, Britain and Canada are spearheading the evacuation that would transport members of the White Helmets group to transit camps

WASHINGTON: US officials say the United States is finalizing plans to evacuate several hundred Syrian civil defense workers and their families from southwest Syria as Russian-backed government forces close in on the area.
Two officials familiar with the plans said Thursday that the US, Britain and Canada are spearheading the evacuation that would transport members of the White Helmets group to transit camps in neighboring countries. From there, they will be sent to third countries, including Britain, Germany, the Netherlands and possibly Canada, according to the officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the matter.
The officials, and a member of the White Helmets who is due to be evacuated from Quneitra province, said the operation appears to be imminent as the Syrian army continues to gain ground in its latest offensive. The White Helmets, who have enjoyed backing from the US and other Western nations for years, are likely to be targeted by Syrian forces as they retake control of the southwest, according to the officials.
The officials said planning for the evacuation has been taking place for some time but accelerated after last week’s NATO summit in Brussels.
“These are hard hours and minutes,” the White Helmets volunteer in Quneitra said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear for his life. “This is the worst day of my life. I hope they rescue us before it is too late.”
The evacuation is expected to take place from Quneitra, which straddles the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and where the civil defense team is trapped. It is the last sliver of land still outside government control in the region.
Since the government offensive began in June, the area along the frontier with the Golan Heights has been the safest in the southwestern region, attracting hundreds of displaced people because is along the disengagement line with Israel demarcated in 1974 after a war. The Syrian government is unlikely to fire there or carry out airstrikes.
Negotiations are also ongoing to evacuate armed rebels and their families who don’t want to accept the return of the rule of Bashar Assad’s government to Quneitra, which the rebels have controlled for years. The fighters will be evacuated to the northern part of Syria, where the opposition still holds sway.
Except for that sliver of land, the southern tip of the southwestern region lies along the border with Jordan and the Golan Heights and is occupied by a Daesh-affiliated group. The area is expected to be the target of the next government advances and the civil defense teams don’t operate there.
The White Helmets are not without controversy. They only operate in opposition-held areas, where government services are almost non-existent and aerial bombings are recurrent. Syrian government supporters accuse them of being politically affiliated with the rebel groups. Russia and the Syrian government have repeatedly accused them of staging chemical attacks in opposition areas, a charge that has never been proven.
They have continued to receive US support even as President Donald Trump presses ahead with his plans to withdraw all American forces from Syria as soon as Islamic State forces are routed.
In June, the State Department freed up a small portion — $6.6 million out of some $200 million — in frozen funding for Syria stabilization programs to keep the White Helmets operating through the end of this year.
In other parts of Syria, where government control has been restored, civil defense volunteers have almost always evacuated to other opposition-controlled areas. It is not clear why this time they will be evacuated out of the country.