The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague will seek an arrest warrant Monday for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, charging him with genocide and crimes against humanity in the orchestration of a campaign of violence that led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians in the nation's Darfur region, during the past five years, according to U.N. officials and diplomats.
The action by prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo of Argentina represents a major step by the court to implicate the highest levels of the Sudanese government for the atrocities in Darfur.
Some U.N. officials raised concerns Thursday that the decision would complicate the peace process in Darfur, possibly triggering a military response by Sudanese forces or proxies against the nearly 10,000 U.N. and African Union peacekeepers located there. At least seven peacekeepers were killed and 22 were injured Tuesday during an ambush by a well-organized and unidentified armed group.
Sudan's U.N. ambassador, Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad, warned that the announcement of charges against Al-Bashir would "destroy" international efforts to reach a peace settlement in Darfur.
The violence in Darfur began in February 2003, when two rebel groups attacked Sudan's Islamic government, claiming a pattern of bias against the region's black African tribes. Khartoum organized a local Arab militia, known as the Janjaweed, and conducted a brutal counterinsurgency campaign that has left more than 300,000 people dead and has driven more than 2 million more from their homes. The Bush administration has accused the Khartoum regime of genocide.