Darfuris' Mixed Feelings Over Bashir Warrant

Some unhappy that genocide charges against Sudanese president weren't included in indictment.

Darfuris' Mixed Feelings Over Bashir Warrant

Some unhappy that genocide charges against Sudanese president weren't included in indictment.

Wednesday, 29 April, 2009
We are really very happy about the arrest warrant against al-Bashir. It is a victory for [Darfur refugees],” said Adam Bush, a refugee and spokesman for some of the nearly 150,000 Darfuris living in around the town of Zalingi.

“However, we see the genocide charge has not been included in the charges – but we believe this is a genocide.”

While many Darfuris applauded the recent indictment by the International Criminal Court, ICC, of Sudan president Omar al-Bashir, some were disappointed that genocide was not among the war crimes charges.

The destruction of Darfur communities has been nearly total, Bush continued, and has been focused on specific ethnic groups.

“The Arabs attack Fur, Zaghawa and Masalit,” Bush explained. “Why did they not attack other African tribes? Why did they not attack Purgu, Falata?

“It is because they are not farmers, like us. They are not people of the land. This is our land, and they are attacking us because they need our land – they need to take our land.”

Bashir Mohammed, an elderly resident of the Ferchana refugee camp in eastern Chad, home to 40,000 people, said, “The issuance of the arrest warrant for Al-Bashir was a great news to all of us. But a lot of people in this camp, including myself, don't understand why genocide is not confirmed.

“Both Al-Bashir and his deputy Ali Osman Taha have declared publicly in early 2004 that they want the land, but not the people, which means they don't want us alive. Genocide cannot be more clear than this.”

The ICC judges, meanwhile, contend that the evidence did not support the genocide charge.

“In popular language [genocide] amounts to mass murders or mass atrocities,” said ICC spokeswoman Laurence Blairon. “But the fact that such atrocities have occurred is not enough to indict someone for genocide.”

The term genocide has a specific legal definition, she explained.

“Genocide in law is a very specific word, and there is one element which is very important in this respect – and that is there should be a clear intent to destroy in part or as a whole a targeted group.

“Here in the decision, the judges have identified the three targeted groups (Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa),” she said, “which are the populations in Darfur [and] which were perceived as close to rebel groups opposing the government of Sudan in Darfur.”

With this documented connection to armed rebels, this cast the fighting in Darfur in a different light, she explained.

“Judges have examined and reviewed all the materials presented in the application of the prosecution, and found that there was no direct evidence that had been presented by the prosecution to sustain the count of genocide,” Blairon said.

The ICC judges concluded that “the prosecution had worked through inferences”, rather than providing clear evidence of genocide. “It is complicated,” she said, “but this intent is really the key point in retaining the count of genocide or not.”

Another who disagreed with the court on genocide was Yacoub Bakhit, a resident of the Kasab refugee camp in north Darfur.

"I totally don't agree with them,” he said. “If Al-Bashir and his army didn't perpetrate acts of genocide, who else did in this world?

“The simple fact that no one can deny today is that, in his campaign, Al-Bashir has deliberately and intentionally targeted the African tribes of Darfur in order to eradicate them forever. I request the court to review carefully his deeds.”

Meanwhile, other Darfur refugees are hopeful that the ICC charges filed against Al-Bashir will lead to an end to war and suffering.

“We support and welcome the court’s decision to arrest Al-Bashir,” said Halima Adam, a refugee from south Darfur. “We have been waiting eagerly for this day.”

Adam blamed Al-Bashir for the death of thousands in Darfur and the continuing plight of millions like her.

“We had a very simple and happy life before 2003,” she told IWPR. “We used to go freely to our farms and grow food. We had houses and properties, but now [are] deprived of every thing and end up living in tents and under trees as if we are not human beings.”

When asked about those who demonstrated in Khartoum in support of Al-Bashir on the day he was indicted by the ICC, she replied, “Maybe they are right in supporting him. They have every thing they need. They have houses to live in and food to eat, and most importantly, they have peace.”

But Khartoum is a long way from Darfur, she said, and people there don’t realise what Darfur has suffered.

“They have never experienced the misery of war and terror,” she said. “People here in the camps are also dancing and singing, [but] in support of the ICC’s decision. Yet, “there is no media coverage” of such celebrations.

Ahmed Ali, a Darfuri refugee living in Kariyari camp in eastern Chad, told IWPR he was hopeful the indictment of Al-Bashir would bring peace to the region.

“This decision will mark the end of Darfur crisis,” Ali said. “It stops the killing and horrible crimes against the people.”

Ali said he has witnessed many atrocities and holds Al-Bashir responsible.

“I saw Al-Bashir’s men killing children, raping women and poisoning wells and water resources,” he said. “In this camp there are many women who have been raped and innocent people who have been victimised by Al-Bashir.

“It is their moment now to believe that justice will alleviate their agony. If this man [Al-Bashir] is not guilty of anything, why is he refusing to go to the court to prove him self innocent? Isn’t that every accused is innocent until proven guilty?”

Katy Glassboro is an IWPR international justice reporter. Tajeldin Abdhalla Adam is a Darfur journalist trained by IWPR and based in Belgium.
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