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Monday, 09/20/2010

ICC judges endorse genocide charges against Sudanese president


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

July 12, 2010 (WASHINGTON) — The judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) today added three counts of genocide to the arrest warrant issued last year for Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir just as he was en-route to Khartoum from Asmara after making a previously unannounced visit.

Over a year ago the Pre-Trial chamber I charged Bashir with seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity but declined to approve the remaining three counts of genocide requested by the prosecutor.
However, the ICC prosecutor Luis More-Ocampo filed an appeal afterward saying that the judges used incorrect standard of proof to reject the genocide counts.
Last February, the judges at the appeals chamber concurred with the prosecutor and remanded the case back to the Pre-Trial chamber I to review the genocide case anew.
The judges in their 30-page document stressed that the present decision "only amends the First Decision to the extent necessary to implement the Appeals Decision and neither a re-assessment of the materials originally supporting the Prosecution’s Application, nor the analysis of materials other than those are warranted".
"There are reasonable grounds to believe that [Omar al-Bashir] acted with specific intent to destroy in part the Fur, Masaalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups" the judges said.
"Towns and villages inhabited by other tribes, as well as rebel locations, were bypassed in order to attack towns and villages known to be inhabited by civilians belonging to the Fur, Masaalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups."
It also appeared likely that "acts of rape, torture and forcible displacement were committed against members of the targeted ethnic groups," said the court.
The prosecutor had presented evidence of government forces contaminating the wells and water pumps of villages inhabited by these groups, who were also subject to forcible transfer "in furtherance of the genocidal policy", said the court.
This is the first time the ICC makes a finding of genocide against a suspect. The counts added today include 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.
Sudan has rejected the jurisdiction of the ICC and halted cooperation with the Hague Tribunal since 2007 saying the UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution referring of the Darfur case to the ICC was legally flawed because it is not a signatory to the Rome Statute.
The ICC issued has outstanding warrants also for Ahmed Haroun who was the state minister for humanitarian affairs at the time and is now the governor of South Kordofan and militia commander Ali Mohamed Ali Abdel-Rahman, also known as Ali Kushayb.
Three other suspects appeared voluntarily from the Darfur rebels including leader of the United Resistance Front (URF) Bahr Idriss Abu Garda, former Chief of Staff of Sudan Liberation Army (SLA-Unity) Saleh Mohammed Jerbo Jamus and Abdallah Banda Abakaer Nourain described as the Commander-in-Chief of Justice and Equality Movement (JEM Collective-Leadership).
Abu Garda was cleared of the charges later while the other two will appear at a hearing later this year to determine whether there is enough evidence to try them.
The judges today rejected a previous request submitted by two pro-Sudan, the Sudan Workers Trade Unions Federation (SWTUF) and the Sudan International Defense Group (SIDG) to submit observations against adding the counts of genocide.
They also declined a request made last February by the prosecutor to convene a closed hearing in order to file additional evidence with regard to genocide.
Abdel-Mahmood Abdel-Haleem, Sudan’s ambassador to the United Nations, called the new arrest warrant a "malignant and desperate attempt" to destabilize the country.
"We condemn this move in strongest terms and we are confident that the Sudanese people and all peace-loving nations will ensure the demise of this criminal institution," Abdel-Haleem said in a statement.
In Khartoum, senior National Congress Party official Rabie Abdulatti called the charge ridiculous.
"This is not a charge against the president. It is against the sovereignty and independence of our country," he told Reuters.
"We think that such an action is designed to serve the agenda of others. Sudan faces hostility from different countries."
The Sudanese president returned home today after making a short and previously unannounced visit to Eritrea. The latter was also his first stop when the first arrest warrant was issued for him in March 2009.
He has maintained his ability to travel but avoided countries which are members of the court with a legal obligation to apprehend him.
Al-Bashir has ruled Sudan since coming to power in a military coup in 1989 and won election last April in the country’s first multiparty vote in 24 years which were marred by boycotts and accusations of widespread fraud and rigging.
The Darfur rebel groups hailed were quick today’s decision against the Sudanese president describing it as a victory for the people of Darfur.
"This is a golden opportunity for the international community to show the resolve to end the gravest crime humanity has ever known committed against our people in Darfur" said Abdel-Wahid Al-Nur leader of Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) to Sudan Tribune.
"Never again was the promise the world made that they will not have a genocide like Rwanda happen under their watch. The world must not politicize justice and support the ICC in order to deter any potential criminals in any part of the world" Al-Nur added.
The Justice and Equality Movement rebel group called the development "a victory for the people of Darfur, the war victims who anxiously awaited this ruling.....[victory] to international justice and peace loving countries who oppose impunity"
"JEM calls upon the international community to fulfill its obligations to stop the ongoing genocide in Darfur, in accordance with the Genocide Convention of 1948, and call on it to take measures to implement the arrest warrants against the accused Omer Al-Bashir," spokesman Ahmed Hussein said in a statement.
In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley urged al-Bashir to submit himself to the ICC to face the genocide charges.
"We believe that he should present himself to the ICC and answer the charges that have been leveled against him," Crowley said.
"Everyone is entitled to a day in court, and we think the sooner that President Bashir presents himself to that court, the better," he said.
The US special envoy on Sudan, Scott Gration, will visit the region next week and renew his call for Bashir to "cooperate fully" with the court in The Hague, Crowley said.
In New, the York UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was "deeply concerned by the nature of charges against president Bashir", spokesman Farhan Haq told a press briefing in New York.
Ban urged the Khartoum government "to provide its full support to the work of the ICC and address issues of justice and reconciliation," he said.
The New York based Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on the international community to press Sudan to cooperate with the ICC.
"President al-Bashir’s stonewalling on the initial ICC warrant against him appears only more outrageous now that he’s also being sought for genocide," said Elise Keppler, senior counsel with the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch.
"Security Council members and other concerned governments should actively press Sudan to stop its blatant obstruction of the ICC and to see to it that al-Bashir appears at the court" she said.
Four U.S. based human rights advocacy organizations - the Enough Project at the Center for American Progress, Genocide Intervention Network, the Save Darfur Coalition, and the American Jewish World Service issued a joint statement lauding the genocide charge and calling on Obama to ensure his arrest.
"The Government of Sudan should immediately turn over President al-Bashir to face trial in The Hague. Barring this unlikely cooperation, the United States and the international community should work together to ensure Bashir’s swift arrest" the statement read.
“Accountability is a fundamental component of sustainable peace in Sudan,” says John Prendergast, Co-Founder of the Enough Project. “President Obama should make abundantly clear his unequivocal support for peace rooted in justice in Sudan by sending the message that consequences will result from any retaliation against Sudanese civilians as a result of this warrant, and by building stronger international support for this warrant.”
“The American people are expecting President Obama to fulfill his campaign promises and forcefully support the ICC and protect civilians in Sudan,” says Mark Hanis, President of the Genocide Intervention Network. “The United States government should reaffirm its support for the ICC’s pursuit of justice in Darfur and should work together with UN Security Council and ICC member states to ensure the swift enforcement of this and all ICC arrest warrants for those accused of atrocities in Darfur, including al-Bashir.”
“The United States and broader international community must vigilantly monitor for any threats or acts of violence or other repression against civilians, Sudanese human rights activists, aid workers or peacekeepers,” says Mark Lotwis, Acting President of the Save Darfur Coalition. “While pushing for al-Bashir’s apprehension, the Obama administration must lead efforts to prevent a repeat of the merciless and cruel retaliation by the Khartoum regime last year.”
Lotwis was referring to Bashir’s decision to expel more than a dozen aid groups from Darfur following the issuance of the arrest warrant for him.
David Crane, the former chief prosecutor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone who indicted ex-Liberian leader Charles Taylor, called the decision a "proper step forward" that completes prosecutors’ picture of atrocities in Darfur.
"It is an odd presentation if the genocide was not allowed to go forward," said Crane, who is now a law professor at Syracuse University. "They would almost have to dance around the obvious. Now we have a complete indictment that captures all the offenses that have taken place."
Crane, who had to wait two years from the time he unsealed an indictment against Taylor to his arrest agreed with ICC’s prosecutor’s assessment that Bashir will face justice sooner or later.
"It is a matter of time and frankly I think President Bashir knows it’s a matter of time," Crane said. "He will be handed over. It is just a matter of when that political decision is made."











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