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Genocide charge now possible for Sudan's al-Bashir
"He should get a lawyer," court prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo said after ruling Wednesday.
He accused al-Bashir of keeping 2.5 million refugees from specific ethnic groups in Darfur in camps "under genocide conditions, like a gigantic Auschwitz."
The appeals decision — which said the burden of proof should be lower when prosecutors seek an indictment than when they try to secure a conviction at trial — fueled hopes among human rights activists that prosecutors will indict other leaders around the world for atrocities.
The court is currently considering allegations of atrocities in countries from Colombia to Kenya, Gaza to Afghanistan, but has so far launched formal prosecutions in just four countries, all of them in Africa.
"This gives a new wind to the sails of international justice," said Kenyan human rights activist Njonjo Mue.
Moreno Ocampo welcomed the decision to reopen the Darfur genocide case and vowed to give judges even more evidence when they again consider charging al-Bashir with genocide.
A five-judge appeals chamber said the International Criminal Court wrongly concluded in March that there was insufficient evidence to charge al-Bashir with three counts of genocide for allegedly attempting to wipe out entire ethnic groups in the war-ravaged province of Darfur.
Instead, the court charged him with seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for allegedly orchestrating a campaign of murder, torture, rape and forced expulsions in Darfur.
The Sudanese president refuses to recognize the court's jurisdiction and has vowed never to surrender to it. Since the charges were issued, he has traveled to friendly countries but called off trips to nations where he fears he could be arrested and sent to The Hague.
Al-Bashir's hardline regime also threw out 13 international aid agencies working in Darfur last March when the court first indicted him. The move further compounded the humanitarian crisis in a region where 300,000 people have died since fighting broke out in 2003 between the government and rebels. The United Nations says 2.7 million people have been driven from their homes by the conflict.
"For me, the fact that President Bashir expelled the humanitarian organizations is confirming that his intention is the physical destruction of these people," Moreno Ocampo told The Associated Press in his office at the court.
Wednesday's ruling set an important precedent because it marked the first time the world's first permanent war crimes court has dealt with a genocide case, said David Crane, a law professor at Syracuse University and former chief prosecutor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
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