- The Washington Times - Monday, July 14, 2008

NEW YORK — The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on Monday morning asked for an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Lt. Gen. Omar al-Bashir, declaring the atrocities against civilians in Darfur to be genocide.

ICC prosecutor Luis Ocampo-Moreno on Monday released a detailed charge sheet accusing Mr. al-Bashir of 10 counts of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.

The indictment was unsealed just three weeks before the Summer Olympics are to open in Beijing, an embarrassment to Khartoum’s most loyal protector and biggest trade partner.

Humanitarian officials immediately expressed concern about retaliation by the government, which is accused of murdering or causing to die by famine, disease and rape hundreds of thousands of civilians, and driving millions from their homes.

Mr. al-Bashir has for five years “masterminded and implemented a plan to destroy in substantial part the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa groups,” of Darfur on account of their ethnicity, according to the complaint against him. Their lands were later resettled by other people, a violation of international law.

On Mr. al-Bashir’s orders, the prosecutor said, the combined forces of the Sudanese military and the Janjaweed militia have attacked and destroyed villages, pursuing survivors into the desert. The government has obstructed international relief assistance and menaced camps, often gang-raping women in front of their own families.

“I don’t have the luxury to look away,” said Mr. Moreno-Ocampo yesterday in The Hague. “I have evidence.

The indictment is the most ambitious yet from the 6-year-old tribunal, which has also announced prosecutions against warlords in Uganda, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo. However, Mr. al-Bashir and others who have previously been incited by the ICC are unlikely to show up in the dock anytime soon: The court has no police officers, and peacekeepers are unlikely to storm the presidential palace.

Sudan has not recognized the statute of the ICC, and its government has repeatedly rejected its legitimacy. Mr. al-Bashir is now effectively grounded within his own country, as travelling through or to a country that supports the ICC could lead to a forcible transfer to The Hague.

This is the third time in a short history of war crimes prosecutions that a sitting world leader has been accused of committing or permitting war crimes: former Liberian President Charles Taylor is said to be meddling in political and financial affairs from his luxurious compound in western Nigeria; former Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosovich died in detention in 2006.

Few in the diplomatic or humanitarian communities rushed to Mr. al-Barshir’s defense in the days before the indictment was officially announced; however, many expressed concern that Khartoum would shut down humanitarian NGOs still operating in Darfur, or retaliate against either of two U.N. peacekeeping missions inside Sudan.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon telephoned Mr. al-Bashir on Sunday afternoon and “stressed that the U.N. Secretary-General does not have any influence on the ICC Prosecutor,” according to an update on the U.N. Web site. Mr. Ban also expressed concern about the security of the two U.N.-authorized peacekeeping missions in Sudan — one along the border with the breakaway South, the other a slowly deploying and still vulnerable effort in Darfur.

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