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International court charges Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir with war crimes

President Omar al-Bashir, shown Wednesday at a graduation ceremony near Khartoum, is accused of “heinous crimes.”

Associated Press

President Omar al-Bashir, shown Wednesday at a graduation ceremony near Khartoum, is accused of “heinous crimes.”

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan became a wanted man Wednesday when the International Criminal Court charged him with war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur — the court's first action against a sitting head of state and one that could set the stage for more world leaders to be indicted.

Bashir's government retaliated by expelling 10 humanitarian groups from Darfur and seizing their assets, threatening lifesaving operations, a U.N. spokeswoman said.

Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the United States supports the court's action "to hold accountable those who are responsible for the heinous crimes in Darfur." Up to 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million have fled their homes in the region.

U.N. officials in Sudan will continue to deal with Bashir because he remains the president of the country, U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas said in New York.

In the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, the government denounced the warrant as part of a Western conspiracy aimed at destabilizing the vast, oil-rich nation south of Egypt.

"There will be no recognition of or dealing with the white man's court, which has no mandate in Sudan or against any of its people," the Information Ministry said.

Security was tightened at many embassies, and some diplomats and aid workers stayed home amid fears of retaliation against Westerners.

David Crane, an international law professor at Syracuse University and a former prosecutor of the Sierra Leone tribunal that indicted Liberian President Charles Taylor and put him on trial in The Hague, said, "Head of state immunity no longer is a bar to prosecuting heads of state who commit war crimes and crimes against humanity during their time in office."

International court charges Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir with war crimes 03/04/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 4, 2009 10:51pm]
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