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International court orders arrest of Sudan leader for war crimes

SUDAN denounced an international court's decision to issue an arrest warrant against the Sudanese president yesterday on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur as a foreign plot to destabilize the country.

Thousands gathered in a government compound in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, waving pictures of President Omar al-Bashir and shouting insults against the International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo, calling him a "pig" and a "coward."

"This decision comes within the context of the foreign powers that seek to undermine the stability of Sudan," al-Bashir's foreign policy adviser Mustafa Osman Ismail told state television shortly after the court announced its decision. "It is one of the tools of the new colonization" of Sudan, he added.

Al-Bashir is the first sitting head of state the court has ordered arrested.

The three-judge panel said there was insufficient evidence to support charges of genocide in a war in which up to 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million have fled their homes.

"He is suspected of being criminally responsible ... for intentionally directing attacks against an important part of the civilian population of Darfur, Sudan, murdering, exterminating, raping, torturing and forcibly transferring large numbers of civilians and pillaging their property," court spokeswoman Laurence Blairon said.

Al-Bashir denies the war crimes accusations and refuses to deal with the court, and there is currently no international mechanism to arrest him. The main tool the court has is diplomatic pressure for countries to hand over suspects.

Sudan does not recognize the court's jurisdiction and refuses to arrest suspects. UN peacekeepers and other international agencies operating in Sudan have no mandate to implement the warrant, and Sudanese officials have warned them not to go outside their mandates.

Asked why judges, in a 2-1 split decision, did not issue the warrant for genocide, Blairon explained that genocide requires a clear intent to destroy in part or as a whole a specific group.

"In this particular case, the pretrial chamber has not been able to find there were reasonable grounds to establish a genocidal intent," she said.

She said prosecutors could ask again for genocide charges to be added to the warrant if they can produce new evidence.

The war in Sudan's western Darfur region began in 2003, when rebel ethnic African groups, complaining of discrimination and neglect, took up arms against the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum.


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