Archive for Tuesday, July 15, 2008

International court charges Sudan leader with genocide

July 15, 2008


— Starvation and soul-destroying gang rapes are Sudan's weapons of choice in Darfur's genocide, according to prosecutors at the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal.

Filing charges Monday against Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said the Sudanese leader had developed a new way of perpetrating humanity's ultimate crime.

"Al-Bashir is executing this genocide without gas chambers, without bullets, without machetes," prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told reporters at The Hague-based court. "The desert will do it for him. It is a genocide by attrition."

Moreno-Ocampo filed 10 charges against al-Bashir related to a campaign of extermination the U.N. says has claimed 300,000 lives and driven 2.5 million people from their homes. Those who survive are preyed upon by the government-backed janjaweed Arab militia and regular troops, Moreno-Ocampo said.

"They have no more water, no more food, no more cattle. They have lost everything," he told The Associated Press in an interview before publicly unveiling his indictment. "They live because international humanitarian organizations are providing food for them."

He recalled one witness who heard one attacker say to another, "Do not waste your bullets. They have nothing to do. ... They will die from hunger."

A three-judge panel was expected to take two to three months to decide whether to issue an arrest warrant.

The indictment marked the first time prosecutors at the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal have issued charges against a sitting head of state, though al-Bashir was unlikely to face trial any time soon.

Analysts warned it was a high-risk strategy that could backfire against the people in the war-torn desert region.

Sudan denounced the indictment as a political stunt, saying it would ignore any arrest order and was considering all options, including an unspecified military re-sponse. One Sudanese lawmaker said his government could no longer guarantee the safety of U.N. staff in the troubled region.

Human rights groups welcomed the prosecutor's move, but cautioned it could provoke a violent backlash from Sudan, while offering little prospect that al-Bashir will be arrested and sent for trial to The Hague. The court, which began work in 2002, has no enforcement arm and relies on governments to act as its police force.

In an interview with the AP, Sudan's ambassador to the United Nations, Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mo-hamed, said al-Bashir was weighing all options, including a military response.

Al-Bashir likely will attend the U.N. General Assembly in New York in September, and Sudan would consider any attempt to arrest him a declaration of war, Mohamed said.


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