News24

Sudan rejects Bashir genocide warrant

2010-07-13 12:24

Nairobi/Khartoum/The Hague - Sudan's government on Tuesday rejected the international arrest warrant issued against President Omar al-Bashir for genocide, calling it a "political decision."

On Monday the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague issued the warrant against al-Bashir on three counts of genocide - a charge it had previously stopped short of.

The president was already wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity, relating to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in the western Sudanese region of Darfur.

Speaking in the Gulf state of Qatar, Sudanese government spokesperson Omer Adam Rahmer said the new warrant sent "a negative message", that would make ongoing peace talks in Doha more difficult.

However, rebel groups praised the ICC's decision.

"Never again was the promise the world made that they will not have a genocide like Rwanda happen under their watch," said Abdel- Wahid al-Nur, leader of the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) in the Sudan Tribune.

Ahmed Hussein, spokesperson for the Equality and Justice Movement (JEM), said: "The world must not politicise justice, and support the ICC in order to deter potential criminals in any part of the world."

According to UN estimates some 300 000 people have died in Darfur since 2003. Even now, around 2.3 million people - mostly black Africans - are stuck in refugee camps because of fears of attacks from Arab militia if they return to their villages.

Reasonable grounds

Human rights groups have welcomed this second arrest warrant from the ICC and insisted the international community must pressure Sudan to deliver him to the court.

"President al-Bashir's stonewalling on the initial ICC warrant against him appears only more outrageous now that he's also being sought for genocide," said Elise Keppler, of the non-governmental organisation Human Rights Watch.

"(UN) Security Council members and other concerned governments should actively press Sudan to stop its blatant obstruction of the ICC and to see to it that al-Bashir appears at the court," she added.

Another non-governmental organisation, Physicians for Human Rights, said that the ruling "brings us one step closer to getting justice for the many thousands of victims of al-Bashir's campaign of calculated violence and destruction of livelihoods."

Monday's ICC warrant is in addition to a first warrant issued in March 2009 for five counts of crimes against humanity, including murder, torture and rape, and two counts of war crimes.

There were "reasonable grounds to believe him responsible for three counts of genocide committed against the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups", the ICC said in a statement.

The ICC was founded in 1998 to prosecute war crimes offenders across the world.