Today, Luis Moreno Ocampo, the Chief Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC) requested an arrest warrant for Sudanese Defense Minister, General Abdulrahim Mohamed Hussein, for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Darfur from August 2003 to March 2004. According to Ocampo, Hussein is accused of playing a central role in coordinating attacks on at least six villages where the government conducted indiscriminate air strikes followed by ground attacks by Sudanese soldiers and janjaweed militias which killed and raped civilians and then looted the entirety of the villages.
Hussein was the former Minister of the Interior and the head of the “Darfur Security Desk” during the height of the genocide and was involved in recruiting, mobilizing, funding, arming, and training janjaweed forces. He also reportedly pushed for forced returns of internally displaced persons as well as severe restrictions on humanitarian access.
This is the highest level arrest warrant request for a Sudanese official since President Omar al-Bashir, who is now wanted for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. If the ICC pre-trial chamber approves the arrest warrant for Hussein he will become the fourth Sudanese official wanted by the ICC for the genocide in Darfur following the cases against Bashir, former Minister of State Ahmad Harun, and janjaweed leader Ali Kushayb. This request also serves as a reminder that the crisis in Darfur is far from over.
However, Darfur is not the only region in Sudan where the government has committed atrocities against civilians and unfortunately Ocampo is unable to extend investigations into other regions of Sudan due to limitations in the referral by the United Nations Security Council. Not surprisingly, Sudan is not a state party to the Rome Statue and therefore the only way for the ICC to open an investigation into other crimes against civilians in Sudan is through an additional Security Council referral. Over the past seven months, the Sudanese government has committed a multitude of atrocities in the states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile as well as the disputed border region of Abyei displacing at least 404,700 civilians. While the United Nations has stated that the atrocities committed in these regions may constitute war crimes and ethnic cleansing, the Obama Administration and international community have failed to take substantial action to stop the attacks or hold those at fault responsible.
Justice is a vital instrument for peace as well as for the deterrence of future atrocities. While the additional request for an arrest warrant is a positive step, perpetrators of crimes against civilians cannot be permitted to do so with impunity which they continue to do in Darfur as well as other regions of Sudan. It is essential for the international community to support justice for the people of Sudan by pressuring the Government to turn over officials responsible for crimes in Darfur to the Court. The Obama Administration must also lead the UN Security Council to hold the perpetrators of atrocities in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Abyei accountable by referring the situation to the International Criminal Court.