Icc Issues Arrest Warrant For Sudanese President

03.05.09 | FL News Team

The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant Wednesday for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. This is the first time the Hague-based court has issued a warrant for a sitting head of state.

Bashir has been indicted on seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for allegedly coordinating a violent military campaign in Sudan's Darfur region. The United Nations estimates 35-thousand people have been slaughtered since the campaign began in 2003, and at least another 100-thousand have died from starvation and disease.

The ICC's three-judge panel ruled there was not sufficient evidence to charge Bashir with genocide, but said a count of genocide could be added at a future date if additional evidence comes to light.

On Wednesday, hundreds of demonstrators gathered in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum to protest the arrest warrant. A spokesman for the 65-year-old Bashir announced that Sudan will not recognize the international court's indictment, which Bashir has consistently dismissed as a Western conspiracy.

ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo remains confident Sudan will eventually have to honor the warrant for Bashir, saying, quote, "It could be in two months or two years, but he will face justice."

Shortly after the warrant was issued, the government of Sudan revoked the licences of half a dozen foreign aid agencies. Many had already pulled aid workers out of the country ahead of what many predict will be a surge in violence that could end up targeting humanitarian groups.

The fighting is expected to get much worse in the Darfur region, where the U.N. and other agencies are running the world's largest humanitarian operation. On Wednesday, U.N. officials say hundreds of government troops marched through the capital city of Darfur in a show of strength.