Africa, Armed Conflicts, Headlines, Human Rights

SUDAN: Bashir May Face Genocide Charges

Zukiswa Zimela

JOHANNESBURG, Feb 3 2010 (IPS) - The International Criminal Court is to review its earlier decision not to add genocide to the charges against Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir.

A Darfuri refugee shelters from rain: ICC prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo remains determined to trying the Sudanese president for crimes against humanity. Credit:  Claire McEvoy/IRIN

A Darfuri refugee shelters from rain: ICC prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo remains determined to trying the Sudanese president for crimes against humanity. Credit: Claire McEvoy/IRIN

“It was a legal error to reject the genocide charges against President al-Bashir,” said prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo in a press statement.

The initial warrant for Bashir’s arrest, issued on Mar. 4 2009, indicted the Sudanese president on crimes against humanity including murder, extermination, forcible transfer, torture and rape in the Darfur region of western Sudan.

The court also charged Bashir with directing attacks on civilians not taking part in the war and pillaging, but it rejected the prosecutor’s charge of genocide.

The ICC Appeals Chamber has ordered the Court to look at the genocide charges afresh, saying that the Court applied an incorrect standard of proof to the evidence presented by the ICC prosecutor. The decision is not a ruling on Bashir’s guilt or innocence, it only directs the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber to reconsider whether the Sudanese president should face trial on the charge of genocide.

“The prosecution maintains that President al-Bashir’s intention is to destroy the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa. Hunger and rape are his weapons. This is genocide,” said Moreno-Ocampo.


Even if the Pre-Trial Chamber now adds this serious charge to the already weighty international arrest warrant for Bashir, he does not appear to be in any danger of imminent arrest; he is preparing to contest presidential elections in Sudan in April.

A spokesperson for the Sudanese government told media the timing of the ruling was political and could hinder elections to be held in Sudan in April this year.

“This procedure of the ICC is only to stop the efforts of the Sudanese government toward elections and a peaceful exchange of power,” said Rabie Abdelati, a senior information ministry official.

Bashir is relying on the support of African Union (AU) countries and some Arab states who have refused to back the charges against him. This is despite the fact that 30 African states are members of the ICC.

Dismas Nkunda, co-director of the International Refugee Rights Initiative, says most African states are still under the impression that Western countries are trying to interfere in African affairs.

“African states feel as though they are targets. Most of the serious crimes against humanity are committed in Africa. Several former AU heads of states have been tried by the ICC. The decision made by the AU was a political,” Nkunda told IPS by phone from Kampala. “The ICC has made the legal decision.”

 
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