Faith-Based Group Applauds Genocide Charges Against Sudan President

An ecumenical Christian group applauded the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court for filing genocide charges against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on Monday.

"We are grateful for Luis Moreno-Ocampo's courage and moral clarity," said Faith McDonnell, director of religious liberty at the Institute on Religion & Democracy. "The world has treated the regime in Khartoum and the victims of its genocidal jihad with moral equivalence for too long… At last the ICC's Chief Prosecutor has, in no uncertain terms, laid the blame at the feet where it belongs."

Moreno-Ocampo had filed 10 charges against al-Bashir on Monday, accusing his government of being behind a campaign of genocide and rape in the western region of Darfur, according to The Associated Press.

The ICC prosecutor is also asking the court for an arrest warrant for al-Bashir.

Since 2003, more than 2.5 million people have been displaced and some 200,000 killed as a result of conflict in the western region of Darfur, Sudan. The United States in 2004 became the first country in the world to label the situation in Darfur as genocide.

Khartoum is widely accused by both Darfurians and the international community of unleashing the pro-government janjaweed militia on Darfurians after rebels from ethnic African tribes in the region rose up against the central government.

"The decision to start the genocide was taken by Bashir personally," Moreno-Ocampo said at a news conference, according to Reuters. "Bashir is executing this genocide without gas chambers, without bullets, without machetes. It is genocide by attrition."

IRD's McDonnell said her group hopes al-Bashir will be also held responsible for the genocide in southern Sudan and in the Nuba Mountain region as well.

"When a thug regime gets away with one genocide, what is to stop the regime from continuing the pattern? We hope that being called out before the nations of the world by the ICC will help to put an end to Bashir's decades of atrocities," she said. "Indictment will also make it perfectly clear to the nations of the EU and others that they are doing business with a war criminal."

According to the latest reports, al-Bashir has emerged tarnished but apparently unbowed by the charges filed against him. The Sudanese president has been buoyed by support from the Arab and African world, and analysts say many Sudanese and even the United Nations want to see him stay in power to revive faltering peace negotiations with Darfur rebels and to make good on his promise to hold what could be Sudan's freest and fairest elections in decades next year.

On Monday, al-Bashir signed a new and progressive election law that many in Sudan view as a turning point in the country's march toward genuine democracy. The law sets aside 25 percent of parliament seats for women and allows foreign experts to monitor the vote, slated for the fall of 2009.