An advisor to the Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and one of his top aides have been indicted by the International Criminal Court on war crimes charges.
Bashir faces charges of genocide and crimes against humanity, including mass rape, for allegedly encouraging militias to raid villages and shoot and rape civilians as a way to gain territory during a war in Sudan’s Western Darfur region in which an estimated 300,000 people were killed.
Human rights groups have accused Bashir of unleashing the militias in a bid to crush rebels in Darfur. Bashir has denied that claim, saying Khartoum is fighting rebels supported by the West.
The United States has provided intelligence to UN and African Union forces in Darfur. Earlier this year, the U.S. pulled out of several UN peacekeeping missions, citing security concerns, including in Darfur.
The U.S. Embassy in Khartoum on Thursday issued a “spoof emergency message” warning its citizens of continuing violence in Sudan.
“U.S. citizens in Sudan should exercise caution due to the continuing inter-communal violence in various parts of the country. US citizens should avoid areas where armed groups may be engaged in sustained combat with military forces, and ‘no-go’ areas in North Darfur,” the embassy statement said.
The Hague-based court issued arrest warrants for the two top officials, Ibrahim Ghandour and Ahmed Haroun, accused of masterminding attacks on villagers in Darfur.
The spokesman for the Bashir government, Ahmed Haroun, told reporters Thursday in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, that he is in talks with the ICC’s chief prosecutor about the legal options open to Sudan.
He said the prosecutor had issued requests for other members of the government in Khartoum to be formally investigated, something Haroun said would be a violation of Sudan’s sovereignty.
“Even if we don’t cooperate, there is no guarantee that the prosecutor will close its case,” Haroun said.
“If the prosecutor chooses to exercise his authority to extend the case, it could have serious implications for our independence as a government,” he said.
Haroun, head of the Justice and Equality Movement, is wanted by the ICC on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in connection with a campaign of deliberate destruction of villages in Jebel Marra, a mountainous region in Darfur, which he controlled before the Darfur conflict began in 2003.
If the two Sudanese officials take up ICC summonses, it would be the first time a sitting head of state has been indicted for crimes against humanity in another country.
Bashir, who faces charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, has vowed to fight to the end in his bid to put the charges to rest.
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