The International Criminal Court’s (ICC) chief prosecutor accused Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir of “exterminating” people in Darfur in an interview released on the BBC’s Web site on Saturday.
The Sudanese foreign ministry hit back accusing Luis Moreno Ocampo of behaving like a politician rather than a judicial official over the warrant for Beshir’s arrest on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the six-year-old conflict in Darfur.
The judges dropped three genocide charges that Ocampo had requested be included in the warrant. The prosecutor has appealed against that omission.
Ocampo told BBC radio: “The judge has decided that Omar Beshir is exterminating the citizens in the camps.”
He added that Khartoum’s dismissal of some aid agencies from the area confirmed that Beshir “is exterminating these people.
“That is why arresting Beshir is needed, to stop the crimes,” Ocampo said. “In the meantime, as soon [as] Omar Beshir travel[s] outside [Sudan], he could be arrested and I will work for that.”
The Khartoum government reacted to the arrest warrant against Beshir by expelling 13 aid agencies from Darfur in a move that the UN warned would have serious implications for the 2.7 million people who have fled their homes in the six-year-old conflict.
But Sudanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ali Sadiq said that the prosecutor’s comments “show that he is working more as a politician than as a legal professional.”
The UN has warned aid agency expulsions will leave 1.1 million people without food, 1.5 million without healthcare and more than 1 million without drinking water.
It says at least 300,000 people have died in the Darfur conflict, many of them from starvation or disease. Sudan puts the death toll at 10,000.
Meanwhile, Beshir opened a bridge on Saturday linking the still largely rural island of Tuti in the heart of the capital with built-up areas on the banks of the Nile.
Beshir told crowds of supporters: “We have been dreaming of this bridge for a long time.”
He did not mention the warrant issued against him nor did he reiterate his usual criticism of the West over the court’s decision.
His supporters chanted that Sudan’s “answer” to the warrant was “a bridge and a dam.”
A day before the warrant was issued, Beshir inaugurated a multi-billion-dollar dam at Merowe on the Nile north of Khartoum that is to double Sudan’s power capacity to about 1,250 megawatts.
Beshir is to attend an Arab summit in Qatar at the end of the month but Doha is not expected to hand him over to the court because it is not a signatory to the Rome Statute, the founding text of the court.