KHARTOUM, Sudan Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir said in an interview published Thursday that he will never appear before the International Criminal Court to face charges of genocide and war crimes in his country's Darfur region.
Al-Bashir's comments to the Khartoum independent newspaper al-Ayyam were his first that directly address the court prosecutor's July 14 indictment against him. ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has asked the court for an arrest warrant for Sudan's leader, but it may be weeks before a ruling is made on that request.
A team of legal experts will challenge the indictment before the U.N. Security Council and the International Court of Justice, al-Bashir said in the interview.
"The government will never deal with the court. It doesn't recognize it and will not appear before it," al-Bashir said. "No one knows where (the prosecutor) got (his findings) from. So, we are using a number of legal experts to challenge the legitimacy and legality of the memo (indictment)."
Al-Bashir also said Sudan would not object to regional bodies taking up its case with the ICC. The Arab League and the African Union already have asked the U.N. Security Council to suspend the case for 12 months, which only the council can do under the ICC statue.
The United Nations estimates that up to 300,000 people have been killed and 2.7 million others displaced since the Darfur conflict began in 2003. A U.N. peacekeeping force is trying to deploy in Darfur, but it has only about 9,500 soldiers and has been unable to improve the situation.
Sudan has consistently rejected the ICC's jurisdiction on the grounds it is not a signatory to the 1998 Rome Statute that set up the court. Last year, it refused to hand over two Sudanese nationals indicted on charges of crimes against humanity.
Al-Bashir lashed out in the interview at a U.N. Security Council resolution that referred the Darfur crisis to the ICC in 2005, saying the move was biased and illegal.
Sudan will only deal with the International Court of Justice because it is part of the U.N., of which his country is a member, he said. Both courts are in The Hague, Netherlands.
Al-Bashir, who has led an Islamist regime in Sudan since he seized power in a 1989 military coup, repeated charges that the indictment was part of what he said was a plot to destabilize Sudan and break it up into smaller entities.