Court to reconsider charge of genocide for al-Bashir


SUDAN’S PRESIDENT, Omar al-Bashir, could face genocide charges in the International Criminal Court (ICC) after a legal ruling over his role in the conflict in Darfur.

Bashir already faces an arrest warrant on seven charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes. He is accused of having personally instructed his forces to annihilate three ethnic groups, the Fur, the Masalit and the Zaghawa.

A ruling saying there was insufficient proof to charge him with genocide was overturned by the ICC’s appeal chamber yesterday. Legal experts said the prospect of such a charge was now a step closer. If a genocide charge were brought it would be the first by the ICC against a serving head of state.

Bashir has wide support from Arab and African countries, to which he travels apparently without fear of arrest. His government said the ruling was intended to hinder Sudan’s first democratic elections in 24 years, due in April. “This procedure . . . is only to stop the efforts of the Sudanese government toward elections and a peaceful exchange of power,” said Rabie Abdelati of the information ministry.

Ahmed Tugud of the Justice and Equality Movement, Darfur’s main armed anti-government group, said: “This is a correct decision. We believe that what we have seen on the ground in Darfur amounts to a crime of genocide.” Sudan’s government is accused of backing Arab Janjaweed militias who killed thousands of Darfuris in 2003 and 2004. Bashir insists he did not control them.

The ICC’s prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, put genocide on his original charge sheet, but the pre-trial judges left it off when they approved the arrest warrant in March. Mr Moreno-Ocampo appealed, saying the standard of proof was too high.

The UN estimates that more than two million people have fled their homes in Darfur, and more than 200,000 have been killed.