Judges at the International Criminal Court desire extra information from the prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo who requested an arrest warrant for Sudan's President Omar al Bashir for genocide. Ocampo has until 17 November to provide "additional supporting materials in relation to some confidential aspects ", the court said in a statement.
In July, Ocampo asked the ICC for an arrest warrant for Bashir on 10 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. He claimed the president had "personally instructed" his forces to wipe out three ethnic groups in the western Darfur region. Conflict has been raging there since 2003 when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated regime.
A panel of judges is currently reviewing the evidence to determine whether there are reasonable grounds to try Bashir. It would be the court's first indictment of a sitting head of state. Now, amidst international controversy over the possible indictment the court needs more information on the evidence Ocampo has presented. The court did not indicate what kind of information they are seeking.
It is by no means certain that Bashir will end up in The Hague. Not only is Sudan not prepared to hand him over because they do not recognise the court, Ocampo's accusations still do not amount to an official indictment. It is merely a request to bring charges against the president and to have him arrested. But even if the judges agree to this request, the UN Security Council can interfere and freeze proceedings for a year if it considers it to endanger international peace and security.
Bashir himself shruggs off the threat of prosecution, while Arab and African leaders warn of its dangers to regional stability. The president says the accusations are fabricated.
A violent conflict has been raging in Darfur since 2003; one which the UN estimates has resulted in over 300,000 deaths and millions of refugees. Ocampo claims to have proof that genocide had taken place in Darfur and that Bashir personally masterminded it. He says Bashir set out to destroy the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa by instructing the army and Janjaweed militia to quell the rebellion and use rape, starvation and fear as tools of the slaughter.
The UN Security Council referred the volatile situation in Darfur, Sudan, to the ICC in March 2005. Ocampo opened an investigation into the situation on 6 June 2005.
The Bashir case is the second to arise from the situation in Darfur, Sudan, and concerns crimes committed in Darfur from March 2003. Ocampo issued the first two charges of war crimes against Sudanese citizens last year. The current Minister of State for Humanitarian Affairs, Ahmad Harun, was accused of arming the militias in the knowledge that they would commit serious crimes. However, Sudan refused to extradite him or his fellow-accused, Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman, better knows as Ali Kushayb, the "colonel of colonels".
Sudan arrested notorious Janjaweed militia leader Kushayb earlier this week but says he will be tried before a national court. According to Justice Minister Abdel Daim Zumrawi, Sudanese prosecutors have finished gathering evidence against Kushayb for killing and looting in Darfur. He will be tried before the Special Criminal Court on the Events in Darfur (SCCED), which is currently being revitalised. Sudan claims that the court, with seats in Nyala, Fashir and Geneina, is a credible substitute to the ICC.
Despite revisions last year, the Sudanese criminal code does not include charges of genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes.