War Crimes Court Issues Arrest Warrant for Bashir

NEW YORK (RushPRnews) 03/04/09-The International Criminal Court in the Hague has issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir – the first sitting head of state ordered arrested by the war crimes tribunal since it was formed in 2002.

ICC judges accuse Mr. Bashir of coordinating a campaign of attacks against civilians in Sudan’s Darfur region, where his government has been fighting rebels since 2003.

The warrant lists five counts of crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, torture, extermination, and forcible transfer.

It lists two counts of war crimes, including pillaging, and directing attacks against civilians.

There are no counts of genocide in the warrant. Court officials Wednesday said prosecutors had failed to prove Mr. Bashir was trying to eliminate three ethnic groups perceived to support the rebels.

Sudan rejects the allegations of war crimes and has said repeatedly it will not cooperate with the court.

Security was bolstered in parts of Sudan ahead of the announcement. The U.S. embassy in Khartoum has warned an indictment against Mr. Bashir could spark violent protests and attacks against Americans and Europeans in Sudan.

Mr. Bashir defiantly dismissed the charges during a rally in Khartoum Tuesday, saying the court can take any decision it makes and “eat it.”

The U.N. Security Council, which has the power to delay action against Mr. Bashir, says it is deeply divided over the matter and has no immediate plans to meet following the court’s decision.

The African Union, the Arab League and China have all said an indictment could destabilize the region and harm efforts to bring peace to Darfur.

The United Nations says the fighting and related violence in Darfur have killed more than 200,000 people and displaced more than 2.5 million. Sudan puts the death toll much lower, at 10,000.

photo afp

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