- The Washington Times - Monday, July 12, 2010

The International Criminal Court on Monday issued a second arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Bashir, this time charging him with three counts of genocide in Sudan’s western province of Darfur.

Lt. Gen. Bashir is accused of “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,” according to a statement from the court, located in The Hague.

The court said there are “reasonable grounds to believe” that Gen. Bashir was responsible for the three counts of genocide committed against the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups.

Gen. Bashir denies the charges and has refused to accept the legitimacy of the ICC or to surrender to stand trial. He also has sought to undermine the ICC by painting it as an anti-Muslim, anti-Africa tool of the West.

Sudanese Information Minister Kamal Obeid on Monday criticized the ICC decision as “political,” according to Agence France-Presse.

“The adding of the genocide accusation confirms that the ICC is a political court,” Mr. Obeid, who is also the official government spokesman, said in a statement to the official Suna news agency, which was provided to Agence France-Presse.

Sonia Robla, the ICC’s public information chief, said in a phone interview that the government of Sudan has “an obligation to cooperate with the court.”

Ensuring cooperation would be up to the U.N. Security Council. The court has no police force and relies on international cooperation to arrest suspects, Ms. Robla said.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said the Obama administration has “strongly encouraged Sudan to cooperate fully with the ICC” in previous discussions with the Sudanese government.

This is the first time that the ICC has issued genocide charges against a sitting head of state.

The court issued its first arrest warrant for Gen. Bashir on March 4, 2009. The Sudanese leader was charged with five counts of crimes against humanity (murder, extermination, forcible transfer, torture and rape) and two counts of war crimes (intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population as such or against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities, and pillaging).

The ICC said the second arrest warrant “does not replace or revoke in any respect the first warrant of arrest.”

J. Stephen Morrison, senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the new warrant “reaffirms and then escalates the gravity of the charges” against Gen. Bashir.

“Perhaps this new set of charges will create discomfort in individual states or regional bodies in continuing to defend him,” he said.

After the first warrant was issued, Gen. Bashir curtailed his visits outside Sudan for fear of being arrested. Despite the charges against him, he is widely popular in Sudan and in other parts of Africa.

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