This Day in International Law – March 4

By: Giulia Rettagliati

Photo Credit: a-birdie


On March 4, 2009, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, and in particular for allegedly having directed a campaign of mass killing, rape, and pillage against civilians in Darfur. Al-Bashir is the first sitting head of state to be indicted by the ICC since its establishment in 2002.


The ICC is an intergovernmental organization and international tribunal that is intended to complement existing national judicial systems, having jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. It was set up by the Rome Statute, a multilateral treaty entered into force in 2002, year in which the ICC was formally established and started its work. The ICC sits in The Hague (The Netherlands) and currently 123 States ratified the Rome statute, and are therefore members of the ICC.

President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and the international crimes

Omar Hassan al-Bashir is the President of Sudan and the head of the National Congress Party. He came to power in 1989 with a military coup that ousted the democratically elected government. Since then, he has been elected three times as President in elections that have been under scrutiny for corruption. During his presidency he dramatically and drastically violated fundamentals human rights such as freedom of expression and freedom of association. He carried out imprisonments, purges and executions against his alleged opponents and he had a central role in the civil war, implementing a campaign of murder, extermination, forcible transfer, torture and rape against the three main African ethnic groups of Darfur (the tribes Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa), including attacks directed to civilians.

What is the current situation?

The decision of ICC to prosecute President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has been strongly opposed by the African Union, the League of Arab States, the Non-Aligned Movement and the governments of Russia and China. However, after the first arrest warrant of 2009, the ICC in 2010 issued a new arrest warrant on additional counts. The main problem is that Sudan is not a member State of the Rome Statute. Therefore, it does not recognize the ICC and its jurisdiction, as the Sudanese government pointed out after receiving the second warrant. President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is still governing without ever having faced his charges in front of the ICC.

Giulia Rettagliati is an LLM candidate at Berkeley Law. She is a student contributor for Travaux.