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Sudanese President Charged with Genocide in Darfur

BY Admin  July 14, 2008 at 11:55 AM EST

Refugee from Darfur; file photo

“For over five years, armed forces and the militia/Janjaweed, on al-Bashir orders, have attacked and destroyed villages,” the prosecutors said. “They then pursued the survivors in the desert.”

But beyond a military campaign, ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo stressed the methodical nature of al-Bashir’s campaign of brutality against ethnic groups, usually African tribes, opposed to him.

That campaign has killed at least 300,000 and forced another 2.5 million to flee their homes.

“Genocide is a crime of intention — we don’t need to wait until these 2.5 million die,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Moreno-Ocampo filed 10 charges against al-Bashir: three counts of genocide, five of crimes against humanity and two of murder. He has asked the court to freeze al-Bashir’s assets and order his arrest, but a decision from the judges is not expected for months.

The Sudanese government has denied its role in the violence, saying it has tried to take on both separatist rebels in Darfur and the Janjaweed militia. Many analysts and regional experts have accused the militia of being a part of Sudan’s military efforts against the region, and Monday’s indictment agreed with that conclusion.

In the summary of the case released to the public, Moreno-Ocampo said that the villages attacked from 2003 on were almost always composed of ethnic groups suspected of opposing Bashir’s rule. The indictment also outlined the similar way in which villages were targeted and then destroyed by a coalition of militia and Sudanese military forces.

“These joint forces would then surround the village and on occasion, the Air Force would be called upon to drop bombs on the village as a precursor to the attacks. The ground forces would then enter the village or town and attack civilian inhabitants. They kill men, children, elderly, women; they subject women and girls to massive rapes. They burn and loot the villages,” the document read.

The indictment followed an extensive investigation by the ICC in 18 countries. The investigators conducted some 105 research missions and relied primarily on witness interviews and previous U.N. reports on the crisis in the region.

Moreno-Ocampo stressed that the move was both aimed at holding al-Bashir accountable for the ongoing violence, but also was a way for the international community to step into an country’s internal violence in a way it has not other conflicts.

“The international community failed in the past, failed to stop Rwanda genocide, failed to stop Balkans crimes,” he told the AP. “So this time the new thing is there is a court, an independent court … saying ‘this is a genocide.”‘

It is the third time a sitting leader has been indicted on war crimes — Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic and Charles Taylor of Liberia were both charged while serving as their country’s leader.

The government of Sudan rejected the charges, saying the court did not have the authority to charge al-Bashir.

The Sudanese ambassador to the U.N. condemned the move, and warned his government was “considering various options in dealing with this situation and the limit is the sky for any reaction by the government”.

“It is a criminal move,” Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad said, according to Independent Television News. “A criminal move that should be resisted by all peace wishers and peace-loving countries in the world.”

It was not clear what effect the ICC’s action may have on the ongoing U.N. peacekeeping operation in the region. Some 9,000 African Union troops are in Darfur with the approval of the Sudanese government and on Monday U.N. Secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon called on the Khartoum government to continue to work with those forces.

Ban “expects that the Government of Sudan will continue to cooperate fully with the United Nations in Sudan, while fulfilling its obligation to ensure the safety and security of all United Nations personnel and property,” said a statement issued by his spokeswoman Michele Montas.