The International Criminal Court yesterday issued an arrest warrant for the crime of genocide for Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir. Now, you might be asking yourself: “wasn’t he already under indictment.” The answer is yes. But when the prosecutor applied for an arrest warrant in spring 2009, the judges did not sign the warrant for “genocide”–only for war crimes and crimes against humanity. At the time, the judges ruled there to be insufficient evidence to support a genocide charge. An appellate chamber reversed that ruling.
So what does this change? Legally, genocide is a whole different species of crime as war crimes or crimes against humanity. It is much more difficult to prove because a prosecutor must show that there was genocidal intent to go along with other war crimes. In other words, he or she must show that someone planed to destroy a particular religious or ethnic group, “as such.” It is relatively easier to prove that an individual committed a war crime occurred than it is to show that the aim of the crime was to kill people for who they were, not neccesarily for what they did.
Politically, though, I don’t think this changes too much. Countries will still work with the Sudanese regime when it believes it is in its interests to do so. And the United States, which never fully sought to isolate the Sudanese regime, will likely continue its schizophrenic policy of at once working with the regime to implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement as it calls for Bashir to face justice for the Darfur genocide.