In a precedent-breaking move -- an arrest warrant has never been issues for a sitting head of state -- the International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, in the hopes of holding him accountable for mass murder, extermination, rape and torture. The seven charges include crimes against humanity and war crimes and stem from his role in orchestrating the horrific ethnic violence in Darfur.
The violence in Darfur began in 2003 after rebels began an uprising against the government and to counterattack, the Sudanese government armed and cooperated with Arab militias, namely the Janjaweed. Over the years, the government has adamantly denied al-Bashir’s role in large-scale acts of violence.
Richard Dicker, the director of International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch supports the move, adding that now “not even presidents are guaranteed a free pass for horrific crimes.”
While the charges are a historic move by the ICC, charges of genocide were not included, despite an agreement of the international community that genocide is indeed occurring in Darfur.
“Proving genocide charges is always extremely difficult…President Bashir is hardly off the hook,” Dicker said, reminding the public that charges of mass rape, murder and torture are not taken lightly by the ICC.
According to the UN’s Genocide Convention, to prove genocide there has to be evidence that the violence stemmed from specific “intent to destroy, in whole or in part” a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group solely on the basis of its identity.
ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo filed genocide charges against al-Bashir last July and remains confident that they will ultimately be able to prove genocide in order to convict him; “After three years I have strong evidence that al-Bashir is committing a genocide."
If genocide is proven, the court will issue an amended arrest warrant including the new charge down the road.
Last month, fighting in Darfur erupted with renewed energy and forced thousands of displaced people in southern Darfur to find shelter at a refugee camp in the north.
See what you can do to fight the violence in Darfur and let us know, what do you think the international community can do to end the violence?