Sudan’s al-Bashir sure to face genocide charges: prosecutor

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court says he is confident the court’s judges will soon charge Sudan’s president with genocide and three Darfur rebels with war crimes.
A three-judge panel at The Hague-based court in March issued a warrant for the arrest of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on suspicion of war crimes and crimes against humanity for deportations and mass killings in Sudan’s western Darfur region.
While they charged Bashir on seven counts of crimes in Darfur, two of the three judges deemed the evidence insufficient to support genocide. In an interview with Reuters, the prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, said he had clarified the case to the point that it should meet the judges’ high evidence threshold.
“It’s more than enough for the arrest warrant phase,” he said.
Moreno-Ocampo said that the judges had required that he go beyond the normal criteria for an arrest warrant — sufficient grounds for belief of guilt — and remove any doubt that Bashir had tried to exterminate at least one specific group of people, normally the threshold for a guilty verdict.
Without giving details, Moreno-Ocampo said he had clearly established that link. Also, one of the two judges who had balked at the genocide indictment has been replaced, he added, increasing the likelihood the panel of judges will take a fresh look at his request.
The Sudanese government has rejected Moreno-Ocampo’s charges and is refusing to cooperate with the court. Khartoum has retaliated by expelling 13 foreign and three domestic humanitarian aid agencies, accusing them of collaborating with the ICC.
Despite an international arrest warrant hanging over his head, Bashir has made a point of visiting several countries that have voiced opposition to the ICC indictment, including Qatar, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Egypt.
But Moreno-Ocampo expressed satisfaction that Bashir did not attempt to attend Jacob Zuma’s presidential inauguration in South Africa this weekend. Pretoria has warned Khartoum that the Sudanese leader could be arrested.
“That’s the point, the law is there,” he said. “Bashir is trying to show how he can travel to different countries. For me he’s just showing his desperation.”
The prosecutor said he also expected the pretrial panel of judges to indict several rebel commanders soon in connection with an attack that killed at least 10 African Union peacekeepers in the eastern Darfur town of Haskanita in September 2007.
Moreno-Ocampo said he hoped the judges would make a decision on the rebel indictments before he briefs the U.N. Security Council next month.
If the judges indict all three commanders, that would bring the number of men indicted for Darfur war crimes to six — the rebels, Bashir, the new governor of the oil-rich South Kordofan region Ahmad Haroun, and militia commander Ali Kushayb.
UN officials say that as many as 300 000 people have been killed and more than 2.7 million driven from their homes in Darfur in almost six years of ethnic and political violence.
Khartoum, however, says 10 000 people have died. Some 4.7 million people rely on humanitarian aid in Darfur.