Friday, November 14, 2008

If peace comes to Darfur, thank the International Criminal Court

By David Blair

When Sudan's military dictator declared a unilateral ceasefire in Darfur this week, he was conducting the biggest plea bargain in history. President Omar al-Bashir, who seized power in a coup in 1989 and leads one of Africa's most ruthless regimes, did not try to halt Darfur's bloodshed out of the kindness of his heart. On the contrary, for the past five years, his armed forces and their associated militias, popularly known as the janjaweed or "devils on horseback", have pillaged villages at will, waging a ruthless war that has claimed some 300,000 lives, either from violence, starvation or disease.

Instead, Mr Bashir called the ceasefire because he faces a little legal difficulty. In July, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, asked for Sudan's leader to be formally charged with three counts of genocide, five of crimes against humanity and two of war crimes.

At present, the ICC's "pre-trial chamber" is considering this request. So far, Mr Bashir has not been formally charged and no arrest warrant exists in his name. But this could change quite soon. Early next year, the judges will probably decide whether to uphold Mr Moreno-Ocampo's accusations. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>

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