ICC charges Sudan president with war crimes, not genocide

The International Criminal Court (ICC) March 4 issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, charging him with seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, but declining to charge him with genocide. The warrant had been sought by ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, who in July filed preliminary charges against al-Bashir alleging genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes committed in the Darfur region in violation of Articles 6, 7, and 8 of the Rome Statute. This is the first time the ICC has issued an arrest warrant against a sitting head of state.

The ICC announced last week that they would decide whether to issue an arrest warrant on Wednesday. The announcement came after the New York Times reported last month that the warrant had been issued, leading a court official quickly to issue a denial. In an effort to promote Darfur peace talks, Egypt called on the ICC last week to postpone its decision on the warrant. The African Union has also called for the proceedings against al-Bashir to be delayed. Sudan has said it will disregard the ICC’s ruling. Al-Bashir is accused of systematically targeting and purging the Fur, Masalit, and Zaghawa, three Arabic-speaking ethnic groups, under the pretext of counterinsurgency since 2003. (Jurist, March 4)

Sudan and other African countries criticized the issuing the warrant, while Sudan’s opposition leaders, the UN, and Western countries urged Bashir’s government to cooperate with court. In Sudan, Information Minister Kamal Ebeid rejected the court’s authority to issue the warrant, thousands protested in Darfur, and several aid agencies were expelled from the country. Spokesmen for both the AU and Egypt warned that the warrant could disrupt peacekeeping efforts in the country, but Sudan opposition SPLM member Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth said that actions by the ICC should not interfere with country’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged Sudan to cooperate with the court [press release] and said that UN peacekeepers would remain in the country. The US State Department said that the US supported peace in Sudan and that those responsible for atrocities there should be held accountable. (Jurist, March 4)

See our last post on Sudan.