ICC to review Bashir charges

February 3, 2010 12:00 am

, THE HAGUE, Feb 3 – Judges of the International Criminal Court must review their decision to omit genocide from the war crimes arrest warrant issued for Sudan\’s President Omar al-Beshir, an appeals chamber said Wednesday.

"The pre-trial chamber is directed to decide anew," presiding judge Erkki Kourula said, upholding an appeal by prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo.

The ICC issued an arrest warrant for Beshir in March last year on five counts of crimes against humanity and two of war crimes committed in Sudan\’s western Darfur region — its first-ever warrant for a sitting head of state.

Moreno-Ocampo, having implicated the Sudanese leader in the deaths of 35,000 people, subsequently lodged an appeal against the court\’s decision not to include the three counts of genocide he had asked for.

The prosecutor accuses Beshir of having "personally instructed" his forces to annihilate three ethnic groups — the Fur, the Masalit and the Zaghawa in Darfur.

"The decision on the prosecutor\’s application for a warrant of arrest against (Beshir) is reversed," Kourula said, adding the pre-trial chamber\’s decision to omit genocide was "materially affected by an error of law".

"The standard of proof developed and applied … was higher and more demanding than what is required," the judge said, reading a unanimous judgment by the five-member appeals chamber.

The pre-trial chamber was directed to make "a new decision using the correct standard of proof".

The ruling was welcomed by the Save Darfur Coalition rights group, warning that: "The US and the international community must immediately make clear to Khartoum that no retaliation against civilians, humanitarian aid operations or peacekeepers in Darfur will be tolerated."

Moreno-Ocampo has previously claimed to have "detailed evidence on the mobilization and use of the entire Sudanese state apparatus for the purpose of destroying a substantial part of the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups in the entire region of Darfur during more than six years".

Beshir, he said, had sought to destroy these groups through killings, rapes, destruction of their livelihood, and the survivors\’ forcible displacement to camps without food or water.

"His intent was genocide," Moreno-Ocampo said, adding that Beshir had ordered his forces "not to bring back any wounded or prisoners".

The United Nations says up to 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million have fled their homes since ethnic minority rebels in Darfur rose up against the Arab-dominated regime in Khartoum in February 2003.

Sudan\’s government says 10,000 have been killed.

The appeals chamber declined a request by the prosecutor for a finding that there were reasonable grounds to believe that al-Beshir was responsible for genocide, saying this was the task of the pre-trial chamber.

The court has no means of enforcing the warrant on its own, and relies on states to execute it. It cannot try Beshir in absentia.

Beshir has visited several countries, non-signatories to the ICC\’s founding Rome Statute, since the warrant was issued. Many African and Arab states along with Sudan\’s key ally China have called for the warrant to be suspended.


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