The U.S. government called on Sudan’s government to cooperate, a day after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for orchestrating genocide in the Darfur region.
“The United States strongly supports international efforts to bring those responsible for genocide and war crimes in Darfur to justice and believes that there cannot be a lasting peace in Darfur without accountability,” said Mike Hammer, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council.
Though the U.S. statement did not name Bashir, it said, “We continue to call on the government of Sudan and all other parties to the conflict to cooperate fully with the International Criminal Court.”
The genocide charge followed an arrest warrant issued by the Hague-based court against Bashir in March 2009 for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Darfur conflict, reports Reuters.
Bashir has dismissed the accusations by the world’s first permanent court for prosecuting war crimes, as part of a Western conspiracy. The ICC warrant was the first issued against a sitting head of state by the court. Bashir remains at large as the ICC has no police force and depends on national authorities and states that have signed up to the court to make arrests. Human rights groups are expected to press President Barack Obama’s administration to take a tougher line against Bashir.
The United States weighed in on the Bashir case even though it is not a member of the ICC. The Obama administration has started to cautiously re-engage with the court, which was set up in 2002 and has been ratified by 111 states, but not by the United States, Russia, China or India. Washington is wary about exposing U.S. troops to possible prosecution while fighting in unpopular wars like those in Iraq and Afghanistan.
ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said pro-government militias directed by Bashir participated in “ethnic cleansing” in Darfur after mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms in Darfur in 2003. The rebels accused the government of neglecting the remote region.
Khartoum mobilized militias to quell the revolt, creating a humanitarian crisis that the United Nations estimates has claimed 300,000 lives. Bashir puts the death toll at 10,000.