The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court is stepping up efforts to bring Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to justice for allegedly orchestrating war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said last week that he expects the court to rule “within weeks” on the appeal he filed that would revise the charges against Bashir to include genocide. According to Reuters, Moreno-Ocampo expects that the ICC will accept the appeal and add genocide to the list of charges against the Sudanese president.
The absence of this genocide charge in the original arrest warrant became the focus of much news and controversy stirred up by the issuance of the warrant in March. But just days later, Moreno-Ocampo filed an appeal, asking the judges to reconsider the genocide charge.
While many Sudan watchers welcomed the news of an imminent decision on the appeal, there is also a renewed fear of backlash from the Sudanese government. Following the March 4 arrest warrant, the Sudanese government expelled the many of the leading aid agencies responsible for providing basic services to displaced Sudanese throughout the country. The ICC’s decision on the genocide charge could spur Khartoum to similarly devastating action. Whether the court accepts the genocide charge or not, many fear the response from Khartoum, which could result in either a government seeking retribution or a government emboldened. As one source put it: “I read this as a warning to the international community to get prepared.”
Last week, Moreno-Ocampo briefed the U.N. Security Council on the ongoing case against three Sudanese leaders accused of masterminding the violence in Darfur. Citing legal obligations rooted in the U.N. Charter and U.N. resolutions, Moreno-Ocampo said that the government of Sudan has the responsibility to arrest Bashir and two alleged accomplices – Ahmad Haroun, the former minister of humanitarian affairs and current governor of South Kordofan, and Janjaweed militia leader Ali Kushayb.
"We are at a crossroads," the prosecutor told reporters after the Security Council briefing, according to AFP. "There’s a chance to stop the violence (in Darfur). Crimes have to be stopped."
Photo: Posters of ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo. AP