Wednesday, March 04, 2009

President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan charged him with crimes against humanity

Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir came to power in 1989 in Sudan when, as a colonel in the Sudanese army, he led a group of officers in a bloodless military coup who ousted the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi.

His government has been widely criticised for its role in the Darfur conflict, where ethnic cleansing towards the non-Arab population has led to death tolls between 200,000 to 400,000. In July 2008, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Luis Moreno-Ocampo, accused al-Bashir of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur. The court issued an arrest warrant for Omar al-Bashir on 4 March 2009 on counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, but ruled that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute him for genocide. The warrant will be delivered to the Sudanese government, which is unlikely to execute it. Al-Bashir is the first sitting head of state ever indicted by the ICC.

This from the International Herald Tribune:
Judges at the International Criminal Court ordered the arrest Wednesday of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan, charging him with war crimes and crimes against humanity for a concerted government campaign against civilians. They did not include the charge of genocide requested by the prosecutor.

In issuing the order, the three judges in The Hague brushed aside diplomatic requests for more time for peace talks and fears of a violent backlash in Sudan. They had taken more than seven months to examine the evidence.

It is the first time the court, which opened in 2002, has sought the arrest of a sitting head of state, though other international war crimes courts have issued warrants for Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia and Charles Taylor of Liberia while they were sitting presidents.

The judges charged Bashir with five counts of crimes against humanity, including murder, extermination, forcible transfer, torture and rape. Two counts of war crimes were for attacks against a civilian population and for pillaging.

In their statement, they said the court did not recognize immunity for a head of state and called on all countries, including those who were members of the court and of the United Nations, to cooperate with the court.


The warrant is likely to complicate the international debate over how to solve the crisis in Darfur. It came despite concerns of UN diplomats, the African Union, the Arab League and some humanitarian organizations that it could renew violence in the country and put at risk the peace process in southern Sudan.

The question now is who will execute the warrant. The Hague court has no police force or military of its own, and the 24,000 or so UN peacekeepers stationed in Sudan have no mandate to detain war crimes suspects.

If Bashir travels to any of the 108 nations that are members of the court, he risks arrest, because court members will be obliged to detain him. The 80 or so countries that are not court members, including China, Russia and the United States, have no such obligation. But lawyers say those countries can arrest Bashir because several treaties state that heads of state enjoy no immunity if they are charged with genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes.

Some figures in the Sudanese government have threatened bloodshed in response to an indictment. Salah Gosh, the head of the country's intelligence service, was quoted in Sudanese press reports as calling for the "amputation of the hands and the slitting of the throats of any person who dares badmouth al-Bashir or support the International Criminal Court's allegations against him."

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