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Human Rights Groups Applaud Charges Against Sudanese Leader

The ENOUGH Project is applauding the charges filed Monday by the International Criminal Court prosecutor against Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. The organization, part of the Center for American Progress, has been calling for tough international action to end the violence in Sudan's Darfur region.

Executive Director John Norris says the charges are a cause for celebration. "I think the chief prosecutor is to be congratulated for recognizing what has been long obvious. That what is taking place in Darfur, the crimes that have been committed there, the crimes against humanity can be traced in a very bright line directly back to Khartoum and directly back to President Bashir. I think in a lot of ways the prosecutor has done something quite basic. He's recognized the elephant in the room and let the world know what was clear to Sudanese, to people on the ground in Darfur, to the humanitarian community, to reporters, to activists and everyone else that President Bashir really is the person most directly culpable for the tragedy that has been Sudan in recent years," he says.

Norris also addresses those who say an indictment against the Sudanese leader will only make matters worse and possibly destabilize the country. He says, "I think it's really quite incredible that we've got people worried that the indictments might upset President Bashir's rather delicate sensibilities. I think if you look at the picture on the ground, the situation speaks for itself. We have over 300,000 dead. We have millions displaced. There's no credible peace process in sight."

ENOUGH co-founder John Prendergast expects resistance from the Sudanese government. "There is an major opportunity here to introduce a point of leverage that didn't exist before. Yes, it's going to be very messy and ugly over the next month or two while Bashir tries to use the ICC action to justify a number of things…I'm sure we'll see it all. You know, restricting humanitarian assistance, undermining the deployment of these peacekeeping forces further. Maybe even suspending the peacekeeping force in both the south and in Darfur."

Prendergast also says President Bashir may try to undermine the North-South Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

Richard Dicker, director of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch, also praised the charges brought Monday. He says, "It is a very big step, a very important step in ending the impunity for the horrific crimes that have occurred in Darfur since 2003. I think requesting a warrant for the head of state, the president of Sudan, sends the message that no one is beyond the law for crimes that have occurred there."