The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court at The Hague
Monday charged Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir with masterminding and
implementing the genocide of the last five years against the people of
Darfur. Welcoming reaction from human rights groups and condemnation by
the Sudanese government have been swift. From United Nations
headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.
court's chief prosecutor presented the three-judge panel with evidence
charging President Bashir with responsibility in relation to 10 counts
of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes and asked the court
to issue an arrest warrant.
It could be months before the judges
rule. But in the meantime, those in the human rights community say the
charges are a big step forward in assigning responsibility for the
crimes that have led to the deaths of some 300,000 people and the
displacement of more than two million others.
Richard Dicker is the director of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch in New York.
reaction is, 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," said Richard Dicker. "I think requesting a warrant for the head
of state - the president of Sudan - sends the message that no one is
above or beyond the law for crimes that have occurred there."
Ahmadi is an activist with the Save Darfur Coalition in the United
States. She fled Darfur in 2005 after two assassination attempts.
Ahmadi welcomed the ICC's announcement saying it sends a message of
hope to the people of Darfur.
"I think it is a very important
step for the people of Darfur, that they feel for the first time that
there is hope; there is a serious step toward ending their suffering,"
said Niemat Ahmadi.
In 2005, the U.N. Security Council adopted a
resolution  referring the situation in Darfur to the
International Criminal Court in The Hague and ordering the Sudanese
government to cooperate with the court.
Khartoum has refused to
comply with the prosecutor's earlier request that it hand over two
other suspects, and Sudan's U.N. envoy, Abdalhmahmood Mohamad, said
Monday that position has not changed, calling the charges "politically
"We don't recognize the authority of the ICC," said
Abdalhmahmood Mohamad. "We will never cooperate with the ICC. We will
never hand over to the ICC suspects, let alone the president, which is
a symbol of our dignity and our authority. This is why we consider this
move as an affront and insult to the dignity of the entire Sudanese
Ambassador Mohamad said his government has already
started consulting with U.N. Security Council members about suspending
the charges for one year - a power the council has under the treaty
that created the ICC.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who
is in Paris, issued a statement saying the United Nations would
continue its peacekeeping operations in Sudan, where it has more than
40,000 peacekeepers, humanitarian workers and staff.
observers have raised concerns that the charges could lead to
retaliatory acts against U.N. personnel, particularly after an attack
last week on U.N. peacekeepers in Darfur that killed seven. Mr. Ban
said he expects Khartoum to fulfill its obligation to ensure the safety
and security of all U.N. personnel and property.
the spokesman for the U.N. Mission in Sudan, told VOA Monday that some
precautionary measures have been taken in Darfur and throughout the
rest of Sudan that could entail the relocation of non-essential staff,
but that none had been relocated yet. He said the U.N. would continue
to deal with President Bashir as normal.
"We will deal, and we
always deal with government officials, as long as it is critical for
our functions and programs in that country," said Khaled Mansour. "Let
us make one thing clear. What we have here is an application for an
indictment and all people should be innocent until proven guilty."
Dicker of Human Rights Watch says Sudan has an obligation to facilitate
peacekeeping and the delivery of humanitarian assistance, and Monday's
charges should not in any way affect that responsibility. He added that
any retaliatory violence could result in new criminal charges.