By Ann Curry
Word of genocide charges against the President of Sudan is now reaching the displaced persons camps in Sudan's Darfur region.
And we are told people are cheering.
What must is be like for those long suffering, who've seen their homes attacked, their women raped and their loved ones killed, to now learn today, after 5 years of hunger and homelessness, an arrest warrant may be issued against the man they feel is to blame?
President Omar al-Bashir had 10 counts filed against him by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court this morning..3 of genocide, 5 of crimes against humanity and 2 of murder, on behalf of an estimated 2.5 million victims.
The court documents accuse President Bashir:
- of masterminding systematic attacks in Darfur, causing "murder, extermination, forceable transfer of the population, torture and rape."
- of being responsible, according to the filing, for killing and otherwise harming black African tribes of the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa, "to bring about their physical destruction in part."
- of waging a coverup, in part by supressing media coverage, and in statements to NBC News in an interview released last year. President Bashir said evidence villages were burned in Darfur were, "fabrications," and said, "It is not in the Sudanese culture or the people of Darfur to rape. It doesn't exist. We don't have it." (See link.)
Bashir is also accused of slowing down humanitarian assistance to the victims.
Prosecutor Ocampo told NBC News, "They [the perpetrators of genocide] don't need gas chambers because they have the desert. Without food and water people die."
President Bashir denies all charges and through a spokesman says even if he is indicted when the court rules in September, he will not answer the charges because Sudan does not recognize the court.
Ironically, some humanitarian groups worry today's filing will make it more difficult to get aid into Darfur.
And there is already a backlash by countries that support Sudan, some arguing that the court's prosecutor is out on a limb with a flimsy case and in doing so, may be undermining the very future of the International Criminal Court itself. Some accuse the prosecutor of being politically motivated in filing now, just weeks before the start of the Olympics on China, a nation with close economic ties to Sudan.
But in this storm of controversy, Prosecutor Ocampo remains immovable. "The victims of Darfur deserve justice," he says. "At least we must recognize the truth for these people."
A leading voice on Darfur, John Prendergast, co-chair of the ENOUGH Project reacted this way: "The status quo in Sudan is one of the deadliest in the world. Until there is a consequence for the commission of genocide, it will continue. This indictment introduces a cost, finally, into the equation. Bashir will use the indictment as a cover to increase his deadly destruction in Darfur. The world must stand firm against his actions, and work towards peace in all of Sudan."
Now the people in Darfur's camps wait to see what the world will stand for and against.