On March 4, 2009, a Pre-Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced its historic decision to issue an arrest warrant charging Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir with five counts of crimes against humanity and two counts of war crimes for his leadership role in orchestrating the conflict in Darfur.
The charges against Mr. Bashir include murder, extermination, forcible transfer, torture, rape, intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population, and pillaging. Notably absent from the warrant is the charge of genocide.
This decision marks the first time the ICC has issued an arrest warrant for a sitting head of state.
Some have contended that an ICC indictment of the President of Sudan, which enforces international law and holds him accountable for his crimes, is necessary for sustained peace. Others are concerned that such an indictment could negatively impact the peace negotiations, prolonging war or perhaps even accelerating it resulting in more deaths, sexual violence, destruction, and misery. These debates intensified in July 2008, when the ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo presented evidence of crimes to a panel of ICC judges and asked them to issue an arrest warrant for Sudanese President al-Bashir on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes for his leadership role in orchestrating violence in Darfur.
The Sudanese government has said it will resist the ICC request, contending that Bashir is innocent. Two others in Sudan Ahmad Harun, Minister in charge of security, and Ali Kushayb, a janjaweed militia leader were indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the ICC in 2007. They were not considered senior enough to impact peace negotiations.
Following the announcement of the arrest warrant, the Sudanese government expelled several humanitarian aid agencies from Sudan, jeopardizing the lives of millions.
On March 5, 2009, the Museum issued a press statement, decrying the eviction of aid agencies in Darfur and Southern Sudan.