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ICC Chief Prosecutor:  Sudan's Bashir Will Face Justice


Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir continues to defy an international arrest warrant, recently returning from an Arab League meeting in Qatar. But the chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, says he is confident Mr. Bashir will be brought to justice. Lisa Bryant spoke with Moreno-Ocampo in The Hague.

The International Criminal Court issued the arrest warrant against Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir in early March. It is the first arrest warrant against a sitting head of state and charges the Sudanese leader with war crimes and crimes against humanity. Those crimes center of the conflict in Darfur, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced almost three million.

But so far, the only major impact the arrest warrant seems to have generated is Mr. Bashir's decision to expel more than a dozen international humanitarian groups working in Darfur, a desolate, impoverished stretch of land in western Sudan.

Since the arrest warrant was issued, the Sudanese president has so far visited Egypt, Eritrea, Libya and Saudi Arabia. He also attended an Arab League meeting in Qatar -- where Arab leaders, at least publicly, expressed their solidarity for Mr. Bashir. None of these countries are members of the Hague-based court.

But the man who delivered the warrant -- the criminal court's chief prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo -- is adamant he did the right thing. He directly blames Mr. Bashir for the Darfur crisis.

"What happened in Darfur is not a humanitarian crisis. What happened in Darfur is not crimes committed by autonomous militias. What happened in Darfur is the consequence of extermination plan defined by the top authority -- Mr. Omar el-Bashir," he said.

Mr. Bashir is one of the first cases the Netherlands-based criminal court has taken on since it began holding trials this year. The court is the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal. Moreno-Ocampo says the United Nations Security Council referred the Darfur crisis to the court. In issuing the arrest warrant, he said, the court has done its job.

Now, he says, it's up to the international community to act.

"We are not calling for military intervention. We are not calling for bombing. But we are also not calling for nothing. We are not calling for denial. We are not calling for silence. between bombing and nothing there are a lot of alternatives," he said.

Moreno-Ocampo says there has already been some reaction, with countries calling on Sudan to explain its decision to expel humanitarian workers. He suggests Arab countries are also quietly criticizing Sudan -- even as they present a united face in public.

And he believes that sooner or later, the court will try President Bashir.

"Omar el-Bashir knows his destiny is to face justice. He's tainted now. The problem is, how many people will die in the [meantime]," he said.

For its part, the United Nations warns that expelling foreign relief workers from Darfur could have a devastating impact on those living there. Mr. Bashir claim the workers were spies who helped the court mount war crimes charges against him.

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