Indictment of al-Bashir Sets a Legal Precedent
President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan’s trial will create a set of evidentiary, legal and political precedents. On March 4, al-Bashir became the first sitting head of state to be indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The ICC prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, has presented a very strong case against al-Bashir. The indictment charges him with murder, rape, attacking civilians, torture, and pillage.
The United Nations Security Council orchestrated the referral of the crimes in Darfur to the ICC, but many diplomats are still confused over how al-Bashir can be arrested. The practicalities of his arrest will be aided by political factors that have been building against him. Al-Bashir has become a liability to the top power brokers of northern Sudan. Their oil revenue has been decimated by the collapse in oil prices, and their livestock and agriculture export fortunes are also collapsing as Middle Eastern demand for Sudanese exports dries up.
The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) strongly rejected the decision of the ICC’s arrest warrant for al-Bashir as “flawed and unfair.” ISESCO said on its website that the ICC decision will obstruct the international efforts made to reach a settlement to the Darfur crisis and establish lasting peace and security in Sedan.
The United Nations estimates that 300,000 people have been killed in the conflict in western Sudan’s Darfur region, and 2.5 million people have been forced to flee their homes. Shortly after the indictment came down, al-Bashir announced that all aid groups must leave the country.