The International Criminal Court must rule again on whether Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir (here seen inspecting a military parade) must face an additional charge of committing genocide in Darfur, appeals judges at the Hague-based tribunal ruled this morning.
The judges reversed a decision that prosecutors had not provided sufficient evidence to add genocide to Bashir’s charge sheet, which already includes seven counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including murder, extermination, torture and rape.
“The decision by the pre-trial chamber not to issue a warrant in the respect of the charge of genocide was materially affected by an error of law and it is for this reason the appeals chamber has decided to reverse the decision,” ICC judge Erkki Kourula said in reading the appeal ruling.
But Kourula added that the appeals chamber would not grant the prosecutor’s request for a ruling that Bashir was criminally responsible for the crime of genocide. Bashir has repeatedly dismissed the allegations made by the ICC, the world’s first permanent court for prosecuting war crimes, as part of a Western conspiracy. The Sudanese government has refused to co-operate with the court.
Darfur’s most powerful rebel group welcomed the ICC’s decision, saying they would now reconsider taking part in peace talks. “This is a correct decision,” said the chief negotiator for the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) Ahmed Tugud. “We believe that what we have seen on the ground in Darfur amounts to a crime of genocide.”
“Now we are assessing our situation on whether it is ethically possible to negotiate with a government accused of committing genocidal crimes against our people.”
Tugod spoke by phone from Doha, where JEM has been holding on-off discussions with Khartoum which were supposed to pave the way to full peace talks. The arrest warrant against Bashir was the first ever issued against a sitting head of state by the ICC.
Adding a charge of genocide to the arrest warrant could further isolate Bashir and provoke further unrest in Darfur, where 4.7 million people have been left dependent on aid by a seven-year conflict.
The investigation into Darfur was launched in June 2005 after the United Nations Security Council referred the situation to the ICC.