Darfur: Holding Sudan's President Accountable

by R. J. Forman

Hey! Remember Darfur?

We haven’t talked about that troubled place in awhile. (Please see "Darfur: A Report from a Hopeless Conflict," for the last update.)

Well guess what?

On Monday, a prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague filed an official arrest warrant for Omar Hassan al-Bashir, Sudan's president, for genocide and crimes against humanity in connection with Sudan's poor record of human rights abuses in Darfur. This is the first time the court has moved against a sitting president, and it is justified given Bashir's record.

Even before the official filing, members of Bashir's political party threatened if the ICC indicted Sudan's president more violence would follow.

In Khartoum, Sudan's capital, hundreds of people rallied to show their support for the iniquitous President Bashir.

For those who need the backstory on Bashir and his horrible record, here's more:

Al-Bashir served in the Sudanese army and gained some power and momentum there. He also served with Egyptian forces and when he returned from that assignment some idiot appointed him to several military posts including military attaché in the United Arab Emirates (1975-79), garrison commander (1979-81) and head of the armored parachute brigade in Khartoum (1981-87). Brilliantly, he was then appointed Sudanese Minister of Defense from ’89-’93.

In 1989, Bashir and some of his military buddies revolted against Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi.

Don’t worry. Mahdi was no prize pig either.

His rule was sprinkled with things like nepotism, not abiding to the rules of due process, corruption, oh, and arming Arab tribes in Darfur.

Bashir’s coup over Mahdi was aimed at preventing the signing of a peace treaty with the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, which was involved in a bloody civil war with Sudan's government.

The treaty would have allowed for secular law instead of sharia law (law based on Islam’s Koran).

That indirectly influenced the passing of a Criminal Act in 1991 introducing (some would see that as forcing) sharia law into all provinces in the south of Sudan, an area that largely follows Christian or animist religions.

Bashir did this all claiming to be on a mission to save Sudan.

Sound vaguely familiar?

Laws targeting minorities or religions for the good of the state?

Several notorious rulers started off with stunts like this. Let's see…Bashir is in the company of greats like Slobodan Milošević, Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Robert Mugabe, among others.

In 1996 Bashir was elected president.

By 2003 out and out conflict had arisen in Darfur, as Arab tribes attempt to push out those of different ethnicities.

Since 2003, the United Nations says up to 300,000 people have died and an additional 2.7 million have been displaced in Darfur.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo of Argentina is the prosecutor for the ICC.

On Monday, Moreno-Ocampo presented evidence of war crimes in Darfur, including the alleged sponsorship of the Arab militias (known as the Janjaweed) by Sudan.

With the international court's moves, Sudan's ruling National Congress Party has threatened “more violence and blood.”

That’s a real surefire way to ensure your president’s hands are blood free.

(The photo of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is © copyright the Photographic Service of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the ministry allows the use of the photo with this full credit.)

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