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Sudan president faces genocide charge

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • International Criminal Court issues second arrest warrant for Omar Al-Bashir
  • New charges are in addition to earlier ones of war crimes, crimes against humanity
  • Al-Bashir has appeared to thumb his nose at the charges
  • Conviction for genocide could mean a longer sentence if he is ever tried

(CNN) -- The International Criminal Court issued a second arrest warrant Monday for Sudan President Omar al-Bashir on three counts of genocide for his role in a five-year campaign of violence in Darfur.

Al-Bashir already was wanted on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The new charges are in addition to the earlier ones, not instead of them, the court said.

He was re-elected president of Sudan this year in controversial but historic elections.

The International Criminal Court's first arrest warrant, issued last year, also made history -- it was the first arrest warrant the court had issued against a sitting head of state.

Al-Bashir has appeared to thumb his nose at the charges, appearing in public dancing and singing at a rally in Khartoum after the original arrest warrant.

His information minister dismissed the ICC as a "white man's tribunal."

Adding genocide to the list of charges against al-Bashir could affect the length of his sentence if he is ever tried and convicted.

The African Union this year urged the court to delay war crimes proceedings against Sudan's president, saying a decision allowing genocide charges harms peace efforts.

"The African Union has always emphasized its commitment to justice and its total rejection of impunity," it said in a statement in February.

"At the same time, the AU reiterates that the search for justice should be pursued in a manner not detrimental to the search for peace. The latest decision by the ICC (International Criminal Court) runs in the opposite direction."

Judges at the ICC had cleared the way a day earlier for al-Bashir to be charged with genocide .

Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo had the genocide charge on his original arrest warrant for al-Bashir, but the pretrial judges left off the charge when they approved the warrant in March 2009.

Moreno-Ocampo appealed in July, saying that the judges' standard of proof for adding the genocide charge was too high.

The appellate court agreed with Moreno-Ocampo and ruled in his favor.

The original warrant for al-Bashir included five counts of crimes against humanity, including murder, extermination, forcible transfer, torture and rape.

It also included two charges of war crimes for intentionally directing attacks against civilians and for pillaging.

Al-Bashir has traveled to several countries since the warrant was issued, even though any country that is party to the ICC has an obligation to hand him over to the Hague, the court says.

He openly attended an African Union conference in Ethiopia. Ethiopia is not party to the ICC.

The genocide charge could further isolate Sudan, but it could also mobilize African nations around the country.

Leaders from several African countries have said the ICC has been unfair to Africa, and they have threatened to pull out of the court.

The United Nations estimates that 300,000 people have been killed in the conflict in Darfur in western Sudan, and 2.5 million have been forced from their homes.

Sudan denies that the death toll is that high.

The violence in Darfur erupted in 2003 after rebels began an uprising against the Sudanese government.

To counter the rebels, Sudanese authorities armed and cooperated with Arab militias that went from village to village in Darfur, killing, torturing and raping residents, according to the U.N., Western governments and human rights organizations.

The militias targeted civilian members of tribes from which the rebels drew strength.

CNN's David McKenzie contributed to this report.