As of just over a week ago, there were 2 arrest warrants and 1 request for an arrest warrant hanging on the walls of the International Criminal Court in the Hague that concerned the crisis in Darfur. The first two were Ahmed Haroun, the Minister for Humanitarian Affairs in Sudan, and Ali “Kaushayb”, a known Janjaweed leader; the third is a pending warrant for the arrest of the President of Sudan himself, Omar al-Bashir.
A week ago today, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court at the Hague, added 3 new request for arrests to that stack: three leaders of the rebel movements in Darfur.
The crime? According to CNN, in September, 2007, “a thousand rebel-led soldiers surrounded and stormed an African Union peacekeeping base in Haskanita, in southern Darfur, the ICC said. Twelve peacekeepers were killed and eight were wounded in the overnight attack, the deadliest single attack on AU peacekeepers since they began their mission in late 2004.”
Luis Moreno-Ocampo said there is significant enough evidence to support the indictment of three rebel leaders who allegedly planned, led, and directed the attack on the peacekeepers over a year ago.
The names of the rebel leaders have been kept confidential for now, in the hopes that they will surrender of their own accord. While this remains to be seen, a spokesperson for the SLA-Unity would surrender their leaders to the ICC if indicted because they believed their leaders were innocent and that their innocence would hold up in court.
What does this mean for the international community, and more specifically, the growing global anti-genocide movement?
1. It sends a message to actors in Darfur that anything endangering peacekeepers and the Darfuris they protect should not and will no longer be tolerated by the international community
2. It reminds us that we are in the middle of a complex conflict where there are not “good guys and bad guys” but rather a series of powerful actors who each have their own interests in mind
3. It counters Omar al-Bashir’s argument that the ICC is the West’s attempt at overthrowing his government and that he has been unjustly targeted by the Court.
There has been overwhelming support for this move by the international community. Richard Dicker, director of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch called it “an important step toward protecting those who protect civilians…Civilians rely on peacekeepers for protection, and any hope for restoring security for civilians in Darfur depends on peacekeepers being able to do their job,” said “These warrant requests send a strong message that such crimes will not be tolerated.”
Stay tuned at STAND’s blog and on our Weekly News Briefs (which you can sign up for by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org) for all updates about the case.