Byline: By ED JAMES
SUDAN'S president was charged with genocide yesterday, accused of masterminding a campaign to wipe out entire tribes in the war-torn Darfur region.
But Omar al-Bashir is unlikely to be brought before the International Criminal Court soon. His country rejects its authority and senior officials claimed the charges were politically motivated.
However it was the first time prosecutors at the world's first permanent, global war crimes court have issued charges against a sitting head of state.
Head prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo asked a three-judge panel to issue an arrest warrant for al-Bashir to prevent the slow deaths of 2.5m people forced from their homes in Darfur and still under attack from government-backed janjaweed militia.
"Genocide is a crime of intention, we don't need to wait until these 2.5m die," he said before the hearing.
Mr Moreno-Ocampo filed 10 charges: three counts of genocide, five of crimes against humanity and two of murder. Judges are expected to take months to study the evidence before deciding whether to order al-Bashir's arrest.
If they do issue an arrest warrant, they will effectively turn al-Bashir into a prisoner in his own country.
Al-Bashir "wants to end the history of the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa people. I don't have the luxury to look away. I have evidence," the prosecutor said in a statement after submitting his case to the judges.
One victim cited by prosecutors said rapes are part of the fabric of life in Darfur.
"Maybe around 20 men rape one woman. These things are normal for us here in Darfur," she said. …