The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for orchestrating genocide in the Darfur region, where as many as 300 000 people have died since 2003.
The genocide charge, yesterday, follows an ICC arrest warrant issued against Bashir in March 2009 for war crimes and crimes against humanity. He has dismissed the court’s claims, Reuters reports.
“There are reasonable grounds to believe him responsible for three counts of genocide committed against the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups, that include: genocide by killing, genocide by causing serious bodily or mental harm and genocide by deliberately inflicting on each target group conditions of life calculated to bring about the group’s physical destruction,” ICC appeals judges said in a statement.
Bashir says the allegations made by the ICC, the world’s first permanent court for prosecuting war crimes, are part of a Western conspiracy. The ICC warrant was the first issued against a sitting head of state by the court. Abdalmahmoud Abdalhaleem, Sudan’s ambassador to the United Nations, called the new arrest warrant a “malignant and desperate attempt” to destabilise the country.
“We condemn this move in strongest terms and we are confident that the Sudanese people and all peaceloving nations will ensure the demise of this criminal institution,” Abdalhaleem said in a statement, referring to the ICC. 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. He has visited several countries not bound by the court’s rules since the warrant was issued but the genocide charges could further restrict his movements and support from other countries, given their gravity.
On Monday Bashir flew back to Khartoum from an unannounced visit to Eritrea after the new arrest warrant was issued, state Sudan TV reported. In Khartoum, senior National Congress Party official Rabie Abdelati called the charge ridiculous. “This is not a charge against the president. It is against the sovereignty and independence of our country,” he told Reuters. “We think that such an action is designed to serve the agenda of others. Sudan faces hostility from different countries.”
ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo says pro-government militias directed by Bashir participated in “ethnic cleansing” in Darfur after mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms in Darfur in 2003 accusing the government of neglecting the remote region. Khartoum mobilised militias to quell the revolt, creating a humanitarian crisis which the United Nations estimates has claimed 300,000 lives. Bashir puts the death toll at 10 000. When the ICC issued its first arrest warrant, it charged Bashir with seven counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including murder, extermination and torture, while waging a campaign of “rape, hunger and fear” against 2.5 million in refugee camps.
The court ruled however that there were insufficient grounds for a charge of genocide, after which Moreno-Ocampo argued and won the reopening the case by appeals judges in February.