THE HAGUE, Netherlands - The International Criminal Court on Monday charged Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir with three counts of genocide in Darfur, a move that will pile more diplomatic pressure onto his isolated regime.
The decision marks the first time the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal has issued genocide charges.
An arrest warrant for Bashir said there are "reasonable grounds to believe" that since April 2003, Sudanese forces have attempted genocide against the Darfur tribal groups Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa.
Last year, judges issued a warrant against the president for crimes against humanity but refused to indict Bashir on genocide charges as sought by prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo. The prosecutor appealed that ruling, and four months ago, an appellate court ruled that the lower court's decision was legally wrong.
Prosecutors filed their case again, and on Monday judges issued an arrest warrant charging Bashir with three counts of genocide: by killing, by causing mental and physical harm and "by deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about physical destruction."
In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley urged Bashir to submit himself to the International Criminal Court to face the genocide charges. "We believe that he should present himself to the ICC and answer the charges that have been leveled against him," Crowley said.
But Sudan's government criticized the court's action.
"This is a political decision, and Sudan does not pay attention to this political campaign and will respond to it with more economic achievements," Kamal Obeid, the nation's minister of information, said in an official statement in Khartoum. "Sudan will move forward without paying attention to these desperate attempts by certain circles trying to create instability in Sudan in order to stop its development process."