The indictment of Sudanese President al-Bashir on charges of genocide by the International Criminal Court (ICC) is a critical step forward for the victims of Darfur. This action sends a clear signal to world leaders that there is no immunity for genocide.
This is the first time the ICC has brought charges of genocide against a sitting head of state. The charges send a clear signal from the world community that crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes will not be tolerated. The message is "mass atrocities = jail."
The charges also provide an important opportunity for the Obama Administration to work with the Court to bring one of the world's worst criminals to justice and to create a more peaceful future for Sudan.
The situation in Sudan is devolving. The new indictment will help to increase international pressure on the Sudanese government. According to Save Darfur there has been a new escalation of violence in Darfur since the April 2010 elections. Tribal clashes, government obstruction of UNAMID peacekeepers and humanitarian operation, banditry and resource shortages are intensifying the situation on the ground. Many crimes, particularly violence against women go unreported. 600 new deaths were reported in May alone.
Dave Eggers and John Prendergast propose in the NY Times increased US pressure on Sudan including "placing sanctions on key ruling party officials, blocking debt relief from the International Monetary Fund, supporting International Criminal Court arrest warrants, tightening the United Nations arms embargo and providing further support to the south." This makes very good sense.
Monday's charges against al-Bashir are in addition to the 2008 charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes for allegedly orchestrating coordinated acts of murder, rape, torture and forced expulsions.
The charges stem from al-Bashir's campaigns against tribal groups Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa in Dafur. During the seven-year conflict in Darfur, the United Nations estimates that 300,000 people died and 2.7 million have been forced from their homes. ICC court prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo accused al-Bashir of keeping an estimated 2.5 million refugees from specific ethnic groups in camps in Dafur "under genocide conditions, like a gigantic Auschwitz."