Today at The Hague, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, lead prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, presented evidence to indict Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmad Al Bashir on ten counts, including crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of genocide in the Sudanese region of Darfur. This indictment comes three years after the United Nations Security Council requested that Moreno-Ocampo investigate the situation in Darfur. According to a press release from the ICC:
The Prosecution evidence shows that Al Bashir masterminded and implemented a plan to destroy in substantial part the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa groups, on account of their ethnicity. Members of the three groups, historically influential in Darfur, were challenging the marginalization of the province; they engaged in a rebellion. AL BASHIR failed to defeat the armed movements, so he went after the people. “His motives were largely political. His alibi was a ‘counterinsurgency.’ His intent was genocide. ” The Prosecutor said.The evidence is now being reviewed by the judges of the Pre-Trial Chamber. A ruling on the arrest warrent is expected in the early fall. A ten page summary of the Prosecution's case is available on the ICC website.
So what does this mean? Well, there are two schools of thought on this.
The first, claims that this arrest warrant will destroy the already fragile peace effort and send Darfur into a spiral of violence. Already, the United Nations has plans in place to pull out all but the most essential of their civilian workers out of the region. Just last week, seven UN peacekeepers were killed in an ambush with militiamen believed to be from the Janjaweed. Other international groups, such as Médecins Sans Frontières, have either already removed or are planning on moving their non-essential workers out of the Darfur region, citing concerns of retribution and violence. In the week since Moreno-Ocampo notified UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon his plan to table this indictment, members of the security council have met privately. Both China and Russia warn that any direct move against Bashir will jeopardize future peace talks and aid to the victims.
And they may very well be right. In response to the indictment, the Sudanese government has rejected and denied the charges... calling them lies and fabrications of a "stooge court". On Sunday, the ruling party of Sudan, the National Congress Party, warned that the indictment would bring further bloodshed and violence to the area. Peter Martell, a freelance reporter in Khartoum told CBC:
"The country is furious and they are very angry, and they are directing this anger toward the UN, who operate a large mission here. So the fear is that may have some implication on the mission of the UN in Sudan."On the other hand, there is a second school of thought that says that this indictment may just be the leverage that the peace process needs, and could be the spark needed to bring this atrocities to an end. The New York Times quotes John Pendergrast, co-founder of Enough, a group seeking the end of genocide and a former Clinton advisor as saying:
“Suddenly, a new variable has entered the equation in the form of the request for an arrest warrant. While the I.C.C. judges consider this request over the next two months, there is a new point of major leverage over Bashir.”In the same article, the International Crisis Group's deputy president Nick Grono states that this indictment sitting over Bashir's head may make him realise his options are dwindling.
There's one problem with this school of thought. President Bashir and his government do not recognise the International Criminal Court, claiming it does not have any jurisdiction in Sudan. Speaking at a ceremony marking the signing of a new election law for Sudan, which would see free elections in the country for the first time in 23 years, Bashir is quoted in an Africa-Reuters article:
"Whoever has visited Darfur, met officials and discovered their ethnicities and tribes... will know that all of these things (including ethnic cleansing) are lies."In an interview with the Associated Press, Sudanese Ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamed stated that the government is looking at all of their options, including military force. Mohamed claims that Bashir is planning on visiting the United Nations General Council in the autumn and that any attempt to arrest him at that time would be considered worthy of a military response.
Before he made this move in the International Criminal Court, Moreno-Ocampo knew that many wanted him to delay presenting evidence, but as he told the New York Times:
“Some people have said that for me to intervene at this point is shocking. I say what is going on now is shocking. Genocide is going on now, and it is endangering the lives of many more people.”
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Early in Season four of The Hour, George interviewed ICC Lead Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo. This interview offers a good backgrounder into the situation in Darfur as well as what lead up to today's indictment. Also, as many of you know George travelled to Darfur with musician Raine Maida in 2004. After Maida's December 2007 appearance on The Hour, George posted a crazy story from Darfur on After the Hour. George also interviewed Sgt. Debbie Bodkin, a Waterloo police officer who went to Darfur as a UN Investigator.