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International Criminal Court's Arrest Warrant for Sudan's President a Welcome Step

For Immediate Release

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) welcomes the decision of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to issue a warrant for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. This marks an important first step towards bringing the perpetrators of genocide in Darfur to account, and achieving a measure of justice for victims. PHR remains concerned about the physical security of aid workers and internally displaced persons in Darfur in the wake of the arrest warrant, in case of a likely spike in violent attacks, and urges the United Nation's Security Council to take all measures to ensure that they are protected.

"PHR has documented the terror and devastation that Bashir has ordered and overseen against his own people in Darfur," said Frank Donaghue, PHR's Chief Executive Officer. "The Darfuri refugees with whom PHR spoke hold their President personally responsible. One woman told us 'if Bashir is arrested, old women in Darfur will get up and dance'."

PHR's research has also established that the Government of Sudan created conditions that make life unsustainable, by driving people from their villages and depriving them of food and shelter. PHR's analysis laid the groundwork for the charge of genocide under Article II (c) of the Genocide Convention used by Chief Prosecutor Moreno Ocampo in his request for Bashir's arrest in July 2008. While not issuing the arrest warrant on the genocide count today, the Judges stressed that if additional evidence is gathered, today's decision would not prevent the Prosecution from requesting an amendment to the warrant to include the crime of genocide. PHR hopes that the Court will remain open to this possibility.

Any renewed efforts by Sudan's allies to delay the trial for a year (by invoking Article 16 of the Rome Statute) must be opposed. The process of justice must not be held hostage to politics and maneuvering. President Bashir has shown such disregard for the international community's efforts to bring peace, and ensure justice that a year's delay would make 'peacebuilding' even more unlikely.

While justice is a critical first step, there are many others that must be taken to ensure that Darfur is peaceful enough for the return of all of its citizens. First, there must be sincere efforts to bring all relevant parties to peace negotiations so that a fair and representative peace is built. Second, survivors must be monetarily compensated for their losses by the perpetrator (the Government of Sudan), and given health care, legal services and job training to allow them to rebuild their lives.

"Trials are to hold perpetrators accountable. But they are also about bringing justice for the victims," said Frank Donaghue. "We must not forget that they are individuals – nearly 2.5 million of them – whose lives have been utterly torn apart. It is the responsibility of the Government of Sudan as well as the international community, to help them rebuild Darfur."

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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