The former chief prosecutor for the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal for Sierra Leone said African countries have the political will to enforce the arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) against Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir.
David Crane, professor of law at Syracuse University, said he was impressed and encouraged by the positive response and contribution of African countries at a recent two-week conference that was held in Uganda’s capital, Kampala.
The conference reviewed the Rome Statute focusing on the crime of aggression.
Crane said there is a need for justice for the people of Darfur.
“The arrest warrant related to the genocide charge captures the entire event that took place in Darfur and the Sudan. It is important for justice that all of the crimes that were committed in Darfur actually be charged so that the full truth can come out. So, I think this is a rounding out, a natural extension of what has taken place in Darfur,” Crane said.
Crane’s comments came after the Hague-based court issued another arrest warrant Monday against Mr. Bashir for the crime of genocide against the people of Darfur, a charge supporters of the Sudanese leader deny.
In a statement, the Hague-based court said, “there are reasonable grounds to believe him (Mr. Bashir) responsible for three counts of genocide committed against the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups that include genocide by killing, genocide by causing serious bodily or mental harm and genocide by deliberately inflicting on each target group conditions of life calculated to bring about the group's physical destruction.”
The ICC issued an international arrest warrant in March, 2009 against President Bashir over his alleged role in the Darfur conflict.
Judges of the court issued a warrant against President Bashir on seven counts, five for crimes against humanity, including murder, extermination, forcible transfer, torture and rape and two for war crimes, including intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population or individual civilians, and pillaging. Supporters of the Sudanese leader have rejected all seven counts.
The international arrest warrant against the Sudanese leader makes President Bashir the first head of state to be charged by the ICC. But, Mr. Bashir described the warrant against him as “worthless.”
The United Nations estimates that 35,000 people have so far been killed in the Darfur conflict. But, Khartoum puts the death toll at only 10,000.
The Sudanese government is currently holding peace talks with the Darfur-based Liberty and Justice Movement in Qatar’s capital, Doha, aimed at reaching a peace deal by mid-July.
But, observers say the additional arrest warrant could undermine the ongoing talks. They also contend that the upcoming referendum scheduled for January 9, 2011 for residents in the semi-autonomous south Sudan could be derailed.
But, Crane said, despite concerns, there is a need for justice for the people of Darfur.
“At this point in time, the politicians and diplomats will certainly be a bit concerned because it goes to the issue of peace versus justice. But, overall, at the end of the day, it has to be justice. We also have to account for all of the crimes that are taking place in Darfur. So, the genocide charge must stand,” Crane said.