The power of blood-lust: Sudan's Omar Hassan al-Bashir (Salah Malkawi/Getty Images)
Sudan's Omar Hassan al-Bashir is the sort of totalitarian who makes crimes against humanity sound like an understatement, and his own approximation of human form--he does have two eyes, two ears, a mustache and the kind of brain power that interprets everything in terms of maintaining his own power--look like his greatest con job.
This is the man who, powering over Sudan since his military coup in 1989, has overseen and often orchestrated the civil war between north and south Sudan and the genocide in Darfur, which have resulted in the slaughter of at least 2.5 million people. The civil war is over. The genocide carries on.
This is the man whose scorched-earth policies have created upwards of 7 million refugees, and whose refusal to let a United Nations' peacekeeping force protect civilians or supervise the distribution of humanitarian aid. This is the man who told the United Nations that the world community was exaggerating the death toll in Sudan and who, in a mandatory pep rally organized for him in Darfur in July 2007, "jumped on a desk and did a little jig. He jutted his cane. He rolled his hips. Shadows of sweat bloomed under his arms" (as The Times' Jeffrey Gettleman described it.
"It was here in El Fasher, on the same airport tarmac where Mr. Bashir was blessed... by a hundred elders leaning on canes," Gettleman's description of that day's events went on, "that rebels blew up government planes in 2003, setting off a conflict that would claim 300,000 lives and threaten to destabilize an entire region in the heart of Africa."
And yet what goes for reasoned calculations is such that, as the Times sums it up, "There is broad concern that removing Mr. Bashir from power could threaten a landmark peace treaty between the Sudanese government and other rebels in the southern part of the country." In other words, protecting the murderer, rather than prosecuting him, is actually a line of argument civilized governments make with a straight face.
Here are the seven charges:Pre-Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant for the arrest of Omar Hassan Ahmad Al Bashir, President of Sudan, for war crimes and crimes against humanity. He is suspected of being criminally responsible, as an indirect (co-)perpetrator, 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. This is the first warrant of arrest ever issued for a sitting Head of State by the ICC.
Omar Al Bashir’s official capacity as a sitting Head of State does not exclude his criminal responsibility, nor does it grant him immunity against prosecution before the ICC, according to Pre-Trial Chamber I.
- Five counts of crimes against humanity: murder, extermination, forcible transfer, torture and rape.
- Two counts of war crimes: intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population as such or against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities, and pillaging.
What Happens Next?
Some Sudanese will likely rally behind their fugitive. Others will sharpen their blades. The indictment could re-inflame passions and trigger more bloodshed. And perhaps intensify al-Bashir's paranoiac blood lust. He may be done with charm offensives, now that he has nothing left to lose. That's horrific news for Sudan. In other words: more of the same for Sudan.