Announcing her decision before the UN Security Council on Friday, Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda blamed UN lack of action.
Five Sudanese nationals, including Bashir, are suspected by the ICC of serious crimes committed in Darfur, but none of them have yet been brought before the Court. The Sudanese President still travels to many countries without a problem, despite two ICC arrest warrants for him.
"Given this Council's lack of foresight on what should happen in Darfur, I am left with no choice but to hibernate investigative activities in Darfur as I shift resources to other urgent cases," Bensouda said. She said the situation in Darfur continued to worsen and that women and children were the main victims of attacks on civilians. What was needed, she said, was a “dramatic shift in this Council’s approach to arresting Darfur suspects”.
President Bashir hailed the decision as a “victory”. “The Sudanese people have defeated the ICC and have refused to hand over any Sudanese to the colonialist courts,” he said in a speech on Saturday. Bashir, who has been in power for 25 years, is under two ICC arrest warrants issued in 2009 and 2010 for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed in Darfur, a region of western Sudan that has been at war since 2003.
The conflict in Darfur has left more than 300,000 dead and two million displaced since a 2003 uprising of non-Arab tribes who say the regime has marginalized them.
On Friday another African president, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, also attacked the ICC. He said the ICC was a Western tool targeting Africa and that he would bring a motion to the African Union summit in late January calling on African states to withdraw from the ICC’s founding treaty.
Museveni was speaking in Nairobi at celebrations to mark 51 years of Kenya’s independence. He cited the case of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta who was indicted by the ICC before charges were withdrawn at the beginning of this month.
The African Union has already accused the ICC in the past of “racism”. Last year it asked the ICC to suspend procedures against Kenyatta and his Deputy President William Ruto.