Following the decision of the jury at the International Criminal Court (ICC) not to indict Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir for masterminding genocide in the Darfur region, prosecutors have appealed the tribunal’s decision saying there is sufficient evidence to prove his guilt.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) charged Sudanese President al-Bashir with war crimes and crimes against humanity in March for allegedly orchestrating a campaign of murder, torture, rape and forced expulsions in the Darfur province of Sudan, but judges said there was insufficient evidence to charge him with genocide.
The announcement comes a week after an ICC ruling permitting prosecutors to appeal a decision to clear al-Bashir of genocide charges. However, Sudan’s sitting president defiantly refuses to recognise the court’s jurisdiction. His non respect of the court’s powers was givevn a stamp of approval last week when African Union (AU) leaders meeting in Libya said they would neither arrest nor have him extradited. Libya, which is also part of the Arab League, had taken an active role in condemning the warrant against Bashir during the group’s summit last March in Qatar.
According to the Financial Times, Arab leaders roundly condemned the warrant, with Middle East governments and groups that are normally at odds sending messages of support to Khartoum, including Saudi Arabia, its main regional rival, Iran, and militant groups Hizbollah and Hamas.
Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo, who was in Addis Ababa for meetings with a high level African Union panel on Darfur led by former South African President Thabo Mbeki, Tuesday rejected the decision taken by the AU. “The AU is not a signatory of the charter, but individual nations are,” said Moreno Ocampo, Chief Prosecutor of the ICC. He added that 30 African nations have signed the court’s founding document, which obliges them to cooperate with the court.
“African leaders may make political statements but individual nations’ laws take precedence,” Moreno Ocampo said. He added that he appealed the ICC’s decision not to charge Bashir with genocide because he believes the evidence is clear that the Sudanese leader mobilised his Government to exterminate three Darfuri ethnic groups.
The decision on the genocide charge was split. While the entire chamber accepted seven charges – five crimes against humanity and two war crimes – two of the judges refused the charges on genocide.
The chief prosecutor says the summit’s statement does not relieve African states who are signatories to the ICC of their obligation to arrest Bashir if he sets foot on their soil. “He tried to go to South Africa and South Africa told him, if you come here, you will be arrested. He is not traveling around,” he said.
“Today, President Bashir has to be arrested on five counts. If we win this appeal in some months, President Bashir will also have to answer the charges of genocide,” the prosecutor said.
Early Tuesday, Botswana had condemned the AU resolution, saying it was not properly discussed at the July summit chaired by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Al-Bashir is the first sitting head of state indicted by the world’s first permanent war crimes tribunal since it was established in 2002.