12 July 2010

Sudan: Darfur - ICC Charges Sudanese President With Genocide

Photo: Peter Martell/IRIN
Sudanese president Omar al Bashir.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) today issued a second arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, adding genocide to the list of charges for crimes he has allegedly committed in the war-ravaged Darfur region.

The Court's pre-trial chamber said that there are reasonable grounds to believe Mr. al-Bashir is responsible for three counts of genocide against the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups, including genocide by killing; genocide by causing serious bodily or mental harm; and genocide by deliberately inflicting conditions of life meant to destroy each target group.

In March 2009 the Sudanese leader became the first sitting head of State to be indicted by the Court, which charged him with two counts of war crimes and five counts of crimes against humanity.

But the ICC's pre-trial chamber at that time rejected Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo's application to charge Mr. al-Bashir with genocide, ruling that there was insufficient evidence.

In February, the appeals chamber called for adding the charge of genocide to be reconsidered, finding the standard of proof set by the pre-trial chamber to be too demanding at the arrest warrant stage, amounting to an "error of law."

The arrest warrant issued today for Mr. al-Bashir does not replace or revoke last year's, which remains in effect.

The United Nations estimates that 300,000 people have been killed and another 2.7 million forced from their homes since fighting erupted in 2003 in Darfur, pitting rebels against Government forces and allied Janjaweed militiamen. All sides are accused of serious human rights violations.

In May, the ICC's judges referred Sudan's lack of cooperation in failing to arrest Mr. al-Bashir and other indictees - including Ahmad Harun, a former national government minister of the interior - to the Security Council.

Although Sudan is not a State Party to the Rome Statute that set up the ICC, it is obliged to "cooperate fully with and provide any necessary assistance to the court and the prosecutor" in accordance with a Council resolution adopted in 2005.

The ICC is a permanent court based in The Hague in the Netherlands and tries people accused of the most serious international offences, such as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Other than Darfur, the ICC currently has investigations open in four situations: the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), northern Uganda, the Central African Republic (CAR) and Kenya.

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