Genocide charges brought against Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir by the International Criminal Court (ICC) have been dismissed by Khartoum as a “political” decision by The Hague-based court, but the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) described it as a “victory for the people of Darfur and the entire humanity”.
According to the ICC’s new warrant issued on Monday, President al-Bashir acted with specific intent to destroy Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups of Darfur. Prosecutor had presented evidence of government forces contaminating the wells and water pumps of villages inhabited by these groups, who were also subject to forcible transfer “in furtherance of the genocidal policy”, the ICC statement read.
“One of the reasonable conclusions that can be drawn is that… the conditions of life inflicted on the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa groups were calculated to bring about the physical destruction of a part of those ethnic groups.”
But disagreeing with the judgment which held that as president and commander-in-chief, al-Bashir likely “played an essential role in coordinating” a common plan to this end, Sudan’s Information Minister, Kamal Obeid told Suna news agency in Kartoum that the “adding of the genocide accusation confirms that the ICC is a political court.
“Adding of the genocide accusation confirms that the ICC is a political court. The ICC decision is of no concern to us, the Sudanese government. We focus on development,” Obeid said in a statement released by Suna.
Albeit, members of the Justice and Equality Movement believe that the ICCs first warrant for genocide was justice and victory not only for Darfurians but for humanity. “It will give hope to the people of Darfur that justice will be made,” JEM spokesman Ahmad Hussein told AFP.
In Monday’s decision, the ICC said there were reasonable grounds to believe that villages and towns “were selected on the basis of their ethnic composition” for attack by Sudanese government forces.
“Towns and villages inhabited by other tribes, as well as rebel locations, were bypassed in order to attack towns and villages known to be inhabited by civilians belonging to the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups.
“It also appeared likely that acts of rape, torture and forcible displacement were committed against members of the targeted ethnic groups,” the court said.
Human rights groups joined JEM in hailing the ICC decision, and urged world powers to work towards al-Bashir’s swift arrest and trial, but also expressed concern the ruling could prompt further retaliation by the Khartoum government against civilians.
In March last year, the ICC issued a warrant for al-Bashir’s arrest on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, its first ever for a serving head of state. But the warrant did not include three genocide charges requested by Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, who then appealed the court’s decision.
In February, chamber ordered judges were appealed by the ICC to rethink their decision to omit genocide, saying they had made an “error in law” by setting the burden of proof too high.
According to reports, United Nations Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-Moon has urged the Khartoum government “to provide its full support to the work of the ICC and address issues of justice and reconciliation.”