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Former Charles Taylor Prosecutor Praises ICC Action Against Sudanese President


The prosecutor for the International Criminal Court's has filed charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes against Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo accuses Mr. Bashir of masterminding a campaign of murder, rape and forced deportation against the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa peoples in Sudan's Darfur region. Moreno-Ocampo asked the court to issue an arrest warrant for Mr. Bashir, saying it would help prevent the deaths of those still under attack in Darfur from the government-backed Janjaweed militia.

Among those following developments at the international criminal court is David Crane, formerchief prosecutor at the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone. He signed the indictment against former Liberian president Charles Taylor. Taylor is now on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Professor Crane spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the significance of filing charges against Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

"It's very significant…being the second African head of state to be indicted for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. It shows the people of Africa that their lives matter and that's so important in that part of the world," he says.

Asked how these charges could be proved, Crane says, "It's a careful investigation. You have to consider…the facts, the law, even the politics as you move forward in your investigations. I did this when I was investigating President Charles Taylor of Liberia. And I know that my good friend Luis Moreno-Ocampo carefully sorted through the facts, considered the law and the politics and the diplomacy of the issue - peace versus justice - before he moved forward. A good prosecutor has a solid case against a head of state before he actually issues an indictment. You can't make a mistake."

Some say an indictment of the Sudanese president could destabilize the country. Crane responds, "This is a short term view… But if they use the Charles Taylor case as a good case study, you'll see that five years after I unsealed the indictment against Charles Taylor…despite the condemnations, despite the calls that this would hamper peace, Liberia now is on a road of potentially a sustainable peace under the leadership of the first female head of state ever in Africa to be elected in a free and open and fair election there in Liberia."

He calls the indictment of Taylor the "cornerstone by which true peace could have happened in Liberia." He adds, "In my opinion, the same thing will happen in Sudan."

He says there are many political and procedural challenges that have to be overcome to try a sitting president. And it may take some time before a trial could begin. "At the end of the day it's a political decision… It took the international community, after I indicted Charles Taylor, three years before they actually handed him over to the Special Court for Sierra Leone for a fair trial."

Crane says the ICC prosecutor has to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt by showing a "widespread systematic, governmental program by which President Bashir, as the head of state, was implicit, either added and abetted or as another theory goes had command responsibility over the actions being taken by his subordinates."

The former prosecutor says, "The beginning of the beginning of the end of President Bashir as far as his place as a leader in Africa ended today."