ICC reverses Al-Bashir Genocide ruling

The appeal chamber of the ICC has today issued a ruling reversing a decision of the pre-trial chamber on the Al-Bashir case. Last year the pre-trial chamber had decided that the prosecution had failed to provide sufficient evidence to charge Sudanese president Omar Hassan al-Bashir with genocide. The appeal court has now concluded that

The decision by the pre-trial chamber not to issue a warrant in the respect of the charge of genocide was materially affected by an error of law.

The case will now go back to the pre-trial chamber for them to rule on whether to add genocide to Bashir’s charge sheet. The president of Sudan is already charged with seven counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including murder, extermination, torture and rape.

Sudan’s response was, as would be expected, critical of the ruling claiming that it was motiviated by politics and designed to harm democratic elections due to take place in April. A senior information ministry official was quoted as saying:

This procedure of the ICC is only to stop the efforts of the Sudanese government towards elections and a peaceful exchange of power.

ICC issues arrest warrant against Sudan president

The International Criminal Court (ICC) today issued an arrest warrant and charged the Sudanese head of state Omar al-Bashir with war crimes and crimes against humanity arising out of the conflict in Darfur. The judges dismissed the prosecution’s most contentious charge of genocide which arose out of allegations that Bashir had tried to wipe out three non-Arab ethnic groups.This is the first time the ICC has issued an arrest warrant against a sitting head of state.An aide to President Bashir was quoted in the Guardian as describing the decision as “neo-colonialism”; whilst protesters took to the streets of the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.

The ICC, in its press release, reported that

“The Chamber found that Omar al Bashir, as the de jure and de facto President of Sudan and Commander-in-Chief of the Sudanese Armed Forces, is suspected of having coordinated the design and implementation of the counter-insurgency campaign. In the alternative, it also found that there are reasonable grounds to believe that he was in control of all branches of the “apparatus” of the State of Sudan and used such control to secure the implementation of the counter-insurgency campaign.”

Human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, welcomed the decision but there has been disquiet amongst those who have been trying to broker peace talks in the area. Arab states and the African Union had argued for a postponement of the charges to allow Bashir a final chance to end the Darfur conflict while not under duress.

Sudan does not recognise the ICC, and Bashir said the court could “eat” the arrest warrant, which he described as a western plot to hinder Sudan’s development. Despite this, the case will raise questions about his political future.