- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 4, 2009

THE HAGUE | The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor said Tuesday that he has strong evidence that Sudanese President Omar Bashir controlled a genocidal campaign to wipe out three ethnic African tribes in his country’s Darfur region.

Judges at the world’s first permanent war crimes tribunal have said they will announce Wednesday whether they are issuing an arrest warrant for the Sudanese leader.

Smiling and waving at a dam-opening ceremony in northern Sudan, Lt. Gen. Bashir insulted the court and danced for supporters who torched an effigy of Argentine prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo.

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U.N. officials are worried about Sudanese reprisals if an arrest warrant is issued, and have said they fear Gen. Bashir will attempt to expel a joint African Union-U.N. peacekeeping force from Darfur.

The war in Darfur began in 2003 when rebel groups took up arms against the government and complained of discrimination and neglect. So far, up to 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million have fled their homes, according to U.N. officials.

Mr. Moreno Ocampo purports that Sudanese troops and the Janjaweed Arab militia they support killed civilians and continued to prey on them in refugee camps by using a systematic campaign of rape to drive women into the desert, where they die of starvation.

Mr. Moreno Ocampo said he has more than 30 witnesses who will testify that Gen. Bashir engaged in genocidal acts.

“The intention was to exterminate three ethnic groups, and that is why it is genocide, according to our view,” he told reporters at the court’s headquarters in The Hague.

Mr. Moreno Ocampo also asserted that Sudanese agents had offered prominent Darfur refugees money to speak out against the court or say they lied to investigators. He did not elaborate but said that Gen. Bashir’s agents “try to undermine our credibility in this way.”

If judges decide against issuing a warrant, Mr. Moreno Ocampo said he would appeal.

Prosecutors sought the warrants for Gen. al-Bashir in July on 10 charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Gen. al-Bashir denies the charges and his government does not accept the court’s jurisdiction.

Legal experts say the three-judge panel that has taken seven months to analyze hundreds of pages of evidence is likely to issue a warrant on some, if not all, of the charges. It would be the first time the court had ordered the arrest of a sitting head of state since it opened its doors in 2002.

“I would expect the court to issue arrest warrants,” said Andre Nollkaemper, a professor of international law at Amsterdam University.

Mr. Nollkaemper said judges at the court will not be taking fear of reprisals into account.

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