The prosecutor for the International Criminal Court on Monday asked for an arrest warrant against Sudan’s President Omar al-Beshir for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur.
Beshir had “personally instructed” his forces to annihilate three ethnic groups in the western Sudanese region, prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told journalists in The Hague.
“His motives were largely political. His alibi was a counter-insurgency.’ His intent was genocide,” he said.
The president had ordered his forces “not to bring back any wounded or prisoners,” he added. “He wanted to commit genocide.”
Sudan immediately rejected the bid as damaging to Darfur peace hopes, and the African Union warned the indictment of Beshir would create a power vacuum that risked “military coups and widespread anarchy”.
Tanzanian Foreign Minister Bernard Membe, speaking on behalf of AU chair President Jakaya Kikwete, urged the ICC to defer bringing charges “because there is a risk of anarchy in a proportion we have not seen in this continent.”
Already Monday, the joint UN-AU peacekeeping mission in Darfur said it would evacuate non-essential staff but maintain its operation in the war-torn region “due to the recent deteriorating security situation.”
UN chief Ban Ki-moon said he expected Sudan to guarantee “the safety and security of all United Nations personnel and property,” despite the prosecutor’s request.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown urged the former British colony to cooperate with the court, which he said “has our support for its activities.”
But Sudan’s Vice President Ali Osman Taha said Khartoum was in contact with permanent members of the UN Security Council, which has the power to intervene and defer any prosecution for a year, to try to block any arrest warrant.
In Cairo, the Arab League said foreign ministers would hold an emergency meeting on Sudan on Saturday, while the White House urged all parties “to remain calm.”
“What happened in Darfur is a consequence of Beshir’s will,” Moreno-Ocampo told journalists.