International Criminal Court charges Sudan’s al-Bashir with genocide

Pre-Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on July 12 charged Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir with three counts of genocide in relation to the Darfur conflict. The chamber found that there were reasonable grounds to conclude that Bashir had committed genocide against the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups. The charges included “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.”

The charges come after the Appeals Chamber reversed a prior decision by the lower chamber denying the prosecutor’s request for genocide charges. The Appeals Chamber found that the standard of proof applied by the lower chamber had been too high, and that there only needed to be a showing of reasonable grounds of a genocidal specific intent, a showing that had been met when the first arrest warrant was issued. The warrant alleges that the Sudanese government, using the national armed forces, police and the Janjaweed militia, targeted ethnic groups for extermination that were believed to be close to armed opposition groups in Darfur as part of a counter-insurgency strategy, and that as commander-in-chief of Sudanese forces, Bashir “played an essential role in [its] coordinati[on].” The genocide charges have been added to seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity that were filed against Bashir in March 2009.

ICC prosecutors appealed the decision not to charge al-Bashir with genocide in July 2009. Bashir has eluded arrest since the issuance of the first warrant. In March, the president of the ICC said that Bashir will eventually face justice in The Hague and compared the Bashir warrant with the successful surrender of former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic and former Liberian president Charles Taylor  to the international criminal tribunals. The warrant has been controversial, with Egypt, Sudan, the African Union and others calling for the proceedings against Bashir to be delayed, and African Union leaders agreeing not to cooperate with the warrant.

From Jurist, July 12. Used with permission.

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