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The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant today for the president of Sudan. His name is Omar al-Bashir, and he's charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed there and millions more displaced.
NPR's Gwen Thompkins reports.
GWEN THOMPKINS: In the final hours before the announcement, the Sudanese president appeared defiant, saying the court had no jurisdiction over him or his country, and that an arrest warrant would not be worth the paper it was written on. He apparently had inkling that today would not be a good day.
Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir will be tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. The charges begin with a 2003 government attack on an airport in northern Darfur and thread through the six-year conflict.
The indictment says Bashir is responsible for a campaign of land theft, murder, rape and torture against the non-Arab civilian population of the region, which is the size of Texas. And that campaign also enlisted Darfur's Arab militias, who are widely known to mobilize on horseback and camelback and raid farming communities. The judges did not, however, indict Bashir for genocide in Darfur, despite the urging of the court's prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo.
Hundreds of thousands of people have died in the conflict in Darfur, and millions have been displaced. And now, the fighting has spilled outside of the region. Last year, Darfur rebels got all the way to Bashir's side yard, attacking just across the river from the presidential palace in Khartoum.
Judges for the court had been cogitating over this arrest warrant for months. They and the rest of the world appeared to be waiting to see what the Sudanese president would do to avoid trial.
Sudan has been under pressure to not execute the Darfur rebels and alleged sympathizers they arrested following last year's attack near Khartoum. The Khartoum government has also been under pressure to implement the terms of an internationally brokered peace deal that ended up protracted civil war with southern Sudan, a civil war that killed millions of civilians.
But perhaps the toughest concession of all for the Khartoum government to fathom was that the court wanted Bashir to hand over at least two believed architects of violence in Darfur - state minister Ahmad Harun and Ali Kushayb, who led the Arab militia.
Bashir refused, and the Sudanese government apparently did too little to satisfy any of the other concessions. Nothing will happen to Bashir in Sudan. There is no international body there mandated to arrest him. But if Bashir travels to any country that is party to the International Criminal Court, he could be arrested and brought to The Hague.
Gwen Thompkins, NPR News, Nairobi.
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