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Opinion: UN presence at Bashir’s inauguration spells trouble for ICC

Sudan government maintains that dignitaries at Bashir's inauguration, despite ICC charges against him, means trial close to being over.

Although certain groups of the middle class and intelligentsia hope to revive the arrest warrant in the future, the majority of the populace especially the Arabs, choose to dismiss it as a bad memory.

While the chaos in Darfur persists, Bhaskar Chakravorty, an Indian businessman feels safer in Khartoum than in New Delhi and gives Bashir credit for it. “He had come to power through a coup d'etat yet he was no Idi Amin,” Chakravorty said.

“The president is powerful. People respect power. He has made attempts to reach to the people,” he added, noting the recent election results, despite the irregularities, reflected the will of the people.

But for human rights groups, seeing U.N. representatives and other governments welcome Bashir, makes even more graphic the failure to get justice for millions.

“Attendance also risks signaling that your government is not committed to the ICC's success,” Roth said, pointing out that it would send out a bad signal before the first review conference of the ICC's Rome Statute set to happen in Uganda in June.

But the U.N., more than any other institution or country, needs Bashir to stick around in Sudan, which has expelled humanitarian groups before. The U.N. sent its two chiefs of the U.N. peacekeeping missions, Haile Menkerios and Ibrahim Gambari, to the inauguration.

“The fact is that Mr. Bashir was elected by the Sudanese people as the president in the recent elections,” said Martin Nesirky, the U.N. spokesperson. “It is a political event as well as a ceremony that involves the swearing in of a head-of-state of a country where we have sizable missions.”

The ICC, however, is fighting back. For the first time, the court asked the U.N. Security Council to take action in the arrest of a former minister and a pro-government militia chief from Sudan who are wanted for war crimes in the Darfur conflict and are still at large.

The ICC did not mention Bashir but a special adviser to the ICC prosecutor, Beatrice le Fraper, told the BBC that similar action might be taken for the president and the “arrest warrant will not disappear.”

“It's very important that all those who attend the inauguration remember that it is first and foremost the inauguration of a man who has been charged with the crime of extermination,” le Fraper said.

On his last trip to brief the Security Council, chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo also announced widening his investigations to cover officials who lied about Darfur. “My Office is considering the criminal responsibility of Sudanese officials who actively deny and dissimulate crime,” he said.

Lyman noted that away from home, however, Bashir had not won any hears and minds. “He has more credibility and power at home but it doesn’t change his image outside,” he said. “He still won’t be able to travel widely away from his country.”