ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris. Lies. That's what Sudan's president is calling charges against him of genocide and crimes against humanity. Today the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court asked the court for an arrest warrant for Omar al-Bashir. He said the Sudanese president is the mastermind behind huge numbers of killings in Darfur.
Some observers fear the charges will provoke Bashir's followers into a violent backlash. Others say the charges could be a powerful tool to force the Sudanese president to accept a peace process. NPR's Corey Flintoff reports.
COREY FLINTOFF: The criminal court's prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, listed the crimes for which he says President Bashir should be held accountable, including masterminding a plan to destroy key ethnic groups in Darfur and southern Sudan.
Ms. LUIS MORENO-OCAMPO (Prosecutor, International Criminal Court): In addition, we charge five counts of crimes against humanity, including murder, extermination, forcible transfer of a population, torture and rape.
FLINTOFF: John Norris of the Enough Project says Ocampo is just pointing out what Norris calls the elephant in the room that everyone is aware of but no one has acknowledged.
Mr. JOHN NORRIS (Enough Project): That President Bashir really is the person most directly culpable for the tragedy that has been Sudan in recent years.
FLINTOFF: Alex de Waal of the Social Science Research Council says the indictments are an important part of the effort to hold leaders accountable for their actions, but that these indictments may be counter-productive.
Speaking from The Hague, where the indictments were announced, de Waal notes that the international community is trying to negotiate peace between Sudan's government and rebel groups and bring in more U.N. peacekeepers.
Mr. ALEX de WAAL (Social Science Research Council): And these aims cannot be successfully pursued if there is simultaneously an attempt to arrest the head of state, an approach that criminalizes the entire governmental apparatus.
FLINTOFF: John Norris of The Enough Project says the situation is so dire and President Bashir has proven himself so intransigent in the past that the indictments are unlikely to make matters any worse.
Mr. NORRIS: And the people who are worried that this may complicate the efforts for peace, I think it's a little bit akin to someone being worried that calling a fire truck will upset the arsonist.
FLINTOFF: In fact, Norris says, the indictments could give the U.N. Security Council more leverage to get the Sudanese government to take the peace process seriously. The Security Council has the power to quash the indictments against Bashir if he changes his behavior.
In Khartoum today, government supporters staged a demonstration denouncing the charges, but President Bashir's response has been comparatively low-key. In a statement on state-run TV, he merely repeated his previous stand that the International Criminal Court has no jurisdiction in his country and that the charges of genocide are all lies. Corey Flintoff, NPR News, Washington.
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