ICC adds genocide to charges against Sudan's president

12th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

The International Criminal Court added three genocide counts Monday to the charges against Sudan's President Omar al-Beshir in a move hailed as "a victory" by rebels.

"There are reasonable grounds to believe that (Omar al-Beshir) acted with specific intent to destroy in part the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups" in Darfur, said a new warrant issued Monday -- the court's first for genocide.

The government in Khartoum dismissed the move as a "political" decision by the court and the Justice and Equality Movement rebel group called the development "a victory for the people of Darfur and the entire humanity."

"It will give hope to the people of Darfur that justice will be made," spokesman Ahmad Hussein told AFP.

In Khartoum, Sudan's information minister and government spokesman Kamal Obeid said that the "adding of the genocide accusation confirms that the ICC is a political court.

"The ICC decision is of no concern to us, us the Sudanese government. We focus on development," Obeid said in a statement to the official Suna news agency, which was provided to AFP.

In March last year, the ICC issued a warrant for Beshir's arrest on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, its first ever for a sitting head of state.

But that warrant did not include three genocide charges as requested by prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, who appealed the court's decision.

In February, the ICC appeals chamber ordered judges to rethink their decision to omit genocide, saying they had made an "error in law" by setting the burden of proof too high.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was "deeply concerned by the nature of charges against president Beshir", spokesman Farhan Haq told a press briefing in New York.

Ban urged the Khartoum government "to provide its full support to the work of the ICC and address issues of justice and reconciliation," he said.

In Monday's decision, the court said there were reasonable grounds to believe that villages and towns "were selected on the basis of their ethnic composition" for attack by Sudanese government forces.

"Towns and villages inhabited by other tribes, as well as rebel locations, were bypassed in order to attack towns and villages known to be inhabited by civilians belonging to the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups."

It also appeared likely that "acts of rape, torture and forcible displacement were committed against members of the targeted ethnic groups," said the court.

The prosecutor had presented evidence of government forces contaminating the wells and water pumps of villages inhabited by these groups, who were also subject to forcible transfer "in furtherance of the genocidal policy," said the court.

"One of the reasonable conclusions that can be drawn is that ... the conditions of life inflicted on the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa groups were calculated to bring about the physical destruction of a part of those ethnic groups," it added

As president and commander-in-chief, Beshir likely "played an essential role in coordinating" a common plan to this end, said the judgement.

The court ordered its registry to send a request for cooperation to the government of Sudan, all signatories to the court's founding Rome Statute and all UN Security Council members who had not signed, "seeking the arrest and surrender" of Beshir on both warrants.

Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo accuses Beshir of personally instructing his forces to annihilate the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa.

The United Nations says up to 300,000 people have died since conflict broke out in Darfur in 2003, when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated regime for a greater share of resources and power.

Sudan's government says 10,000 have been killed.

Beshir rejects the jurisdiction of the ICC, the world's only independent, permanent court with authority to try genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, and has refused to hand over two key allies wanted for crimes in Darfur.

Moreno-Ocampo will respond to the latest ruling at a press conference in Paris on Wednesday, his office said.

© 2010 AFP

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