No more excuses. No more denial. This week, the international criminal court issued an arrest warrant for three charges of genocide against the president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir.
The world once claimed ignorance of the Nazi atrocities. Fifty years later, the world refused to recognise an unfolding genocide in Rwanda. On Darfur, the world is now officially on notice.
The genocide is not over. Bashir’s forces continue to use different weapons to commit genocide: bullets, rape and hunger. For example, the court found that Bashir’s forces have raped on a mass scale in Darfur. They raped thousands of women and used these rapes to degrade family and community members. Parents were forced to watch as their daughters were raped.
The court also found that Bashir is deliberately inflicting on the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups living conditions calculated to bring about their physical destruction. Millions of Darfuris are living in camps for displaced persons and, at the disposal of Bashir’s forces, experiencing an ongoing genocide. They are helpless, voiceless and with no hope for the future. Darfuris need other voices to help end a genocide that should have been stopped years ago. We can still stop it but we must stop it now. The court’s recent decision could provide a last chance for the world to react properly, to transform “never again” from a promise into a reality.
Bashir will not provide the solution. He has officially denied the genocide, the rapes, the camp conditions and his responsibility for them. He announces investigations that are never conducted and makes peace agreements that result in new attacks. At the same time, he expels humanitarian aid workers, cutting off subsistence from millions of victims. He is also laying the groundwork for new crimes against Darfuris and against the south of Sudan.
Bashir used Ahmad Harun, as minister of state for the interior, to co-ordinate genocidal attacks on villages; he later used Harun, as minister of state for humanitarian affairs, to control genocidal conditions in the camps. Harun’s current role as governor of South Kordofan could indicate an intention to continue using him as a future crimes co-ordinator.
Bashir is attacking Sudanese citizens, the same people he has the duty to protect. Now the international community has a new opportunity to provide protection. There are countries that are not members of the treaty that created the ICC, but which are members of the genocide convention. The convention could apply in this situation, triggering the responsibility of these states to prevent and to suppress the acts of genocide. Humanity has a responsibility to protect the Darfuris.
As the prosecutor of the ICC, my mandate is to ensure justice for these Darfuris, the victims of genocide. Our evidence and our conclusions should be taken into consideration by the United Nations security council.
The UN security council, in charge of international peace and security, referred the Darfur situation to the ICC. Today, the council is holding a debate on international peace and security, which intends to focus on Africa. The council, which extensively reviewed its failure to act in Rwanda, should grab this opportunity.
Arresting a head of state requires a consensus among the political elite. It is a matter of will. If all the UN security council members are in agreement the genocide will stop, “never again” will be a reality.
The Darfuris do not have the luxury of time. Their last chance is now.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo, who has been the prosecutor of the international criminal court since 2003.