The president of the International Criminal Court said Tuesday politics was not an issue in deciding whether and when to order the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.
Canadian judge Philippe Kirsch said the court's mandate is to prosecute the most senior perpetrators of war crimes.
"The court is not capable of looking at political factors. The court is not capable of looking at convenience," Kirsch said on the last day of his seven years in office. "Its responsibility is to act as a tribunal."
Last week, judges at the court issued an arrest warrant for al-Bashir for allegedly masterminding atrocities in Sudan's western region of Darfur. Al-Bashir denies the charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
His administration rejects the court's jurisdiction and refuses to arrest him or turn him over for trial in The Hague.
The African Union chief has called the arrest warrant "counterproductive" for peace efforts in Darfur.
"It is clear that the decision of the ICC undermined and jeopardized the problem of ... reconciliation in Darfur," African Union Commission chairman Jean Ping told reporters Monday in Khartoum after meeting with al-Bashir.
Al-Bashir's regime has been in talks with rebels to end the Darfur conflict that began in early 2003 when ethnic African groups rose up against Sudan's Arab-dominated government. U.N. officials say up to 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million driven from their homes.
Sudan expelled 13 aid agencies after the warrant was announced.
U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes said Monday the expulsions were likely "a political response to a decision which has got nothing to do with the U.N. and nothing to do with the NGOs." The result would be to deny lifesaving help to millions of people, he said.
Also Monday, gunmen ambushed troops of the joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur, wounding four soldiers, in the first reported violence against the peacekeepers since the arrest warrant was issued.
Kirsch, whose successor was being elected by judges on Wednesday, declined to speculate on the next step in the al-Bashir case, but said that the Security Council would likely have to get involved if the warrant is not executed.
The court has no police force and relies on U.N. member states to carry out its will. It has sent copies of the warrant to Sudan, the 108 countries that recognize the court and to the Security Council members, including the United States and China which do not recognize the court.
"The responsibility to make the system work belongs to states and by extension to international organizations and they have to do their part of the deal," he said.
Last year, Belgium arrested former Congo vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba while he was in Brussels and sent him to The Hague. Bemba is charged with atrocities in the Central African Republic.