The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) today called for concerted action by the Security Council to enforce any arrest warrant against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for allegedly committing war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Darfur if the judges issue one.
“Genocide continues. Rapes in and around the [internally displaced persons’] camps continue. Humanitarian assistance is still hindered. More than 5,000 displaced persons die each month,” ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said in a briefing on the west Sudanese region, where more than five years of fighting between Government forces, allied Janjaweed militia and rebel groups have killed an estimated 300,000 people and driven another 2.7 million from their homes.
“The international community cannot conceal the crimes. President al-Bashir’s criminal actions should not be ignored, statements of ceasefire followed by bombings, denial of massive rapes or promises of justice while torturing the witness should not be supported,” he added, citing numerous such examples that he said had occurred over the past year.
“The international community cannot be part of any cover-up of genocide or crimes against humanity.”
Mr. Moreno-Ocampo requested the arrest warrant in July. “The Council must be prepared. If the judges decide to issue an arrest warrant against President al-Bashir, there will be a need for united and consistent action to ensure its execution,” he told the 15-member body, whose decisions are binding.
Asked at a news conference later what could be realistically expected if a warrant was issued, he replied: “Realistically, I think he will face justice, I don’t know if in two months, or two years.” He said that in the case of a warrant, within Sudan it would be up to the courts to act, but Mr. al-Bashir would be arrested if he flew around the world.
Referring to the joint UN-African Union mission in Darfur (UNAMID), the prosecutor told the Council peacekeepers and aid workers should not be forced to work in an environment where the crimes they are trying to prevent are ordered by Mr. al-Bashir himself. “In such an environment, their efforts will never be enough,” he added.
The prosecutor said three human rights defenders were arrested in Khartoum last week and tortured for giving information to the ICC and that so-called “suspected ICC witnesses” are arrested and tried for treason.
Mr. al-Bashir used the illusion of militia/Janjaweed autonomy for years to disguise the Darfur conflict as a tribal one and “this helped him to continue to carry out the genocide in the face of international scrutiny,” he added.
The ICC has already issued arrest warrants for Ahmad Muhammad Harun, former Minister of State for the Interior and currently Minister of State for Humanitarian Affairs, and Janjaweed militia leader Ali Kushayb. Mr. Moreno-Ocampo has also requested arrest warrants for three rebel commanders, whose names have not yet been disclosed, for their role in last year’s deadly attack against peacekeepers in Darfur.