Big news today: Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has been formally charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court.

The arrest warrant was issued in relation to the ongoing conflict in Darfur.

According to a court spokeswoman, President Bashir is suspected of “intentionally directing attacks against an important part of the civilian population of Darfur, Sudan, murdering, exterminating, raping, torturing and forcibly transferring large numbers of civilians and pillaging their property.”

Yup, that about sums it up.

So what does this mean for Darfur?

Well, of course I’m thrilled to see one of our picks for the World’s Worst Leaders being officially recognized for what he is, but obviously Sudan is not about to hand over their sitting head of state.

An aide to the Sudanese president has already contemptuously dismissed the charges, saying that the ICC was “created to target Sudan and to be part of the new mechanism of neo-colonialism.”

Writing in the Daily Beast, George Clooney (yes, seriously!) has a thoughtful piece about visiting Darfur’s refugee camps in Chad and struggling to keep the world’s attention on the crisis. His take on the arrest warrant?

How effective these indictments will be is now in the hands of the rest of the world. Will his government turn him over? Not likely. Will the UN go in after him? Doubtful.

Even if he’s caught travelling outside the safety of his country would his government be much better with other equally dangerous leaders like “The Sudanese Six”—Harun, Taha, Kushayb, Hilal, Minawi? If I were a refugee I wouldn’t bet my life on it.

So then why is this such a significant moment? Because it tells the 300,000 brutally killed and 2.5 million displaced and raped and maimed that justice must always prevail. That the rest of the world sees their struggle and stands up and demands justice.

This is the moment. And if the UN can’t use it to insist on tougher sanctions, and the United States can’t use it to pressure China, and China can’t feel the eyes of the world looking to them for leadership in the country that they profit so greatly from, then the court and the rule of international law is lost.

Here’s hoping this indictment is the first step towards real consequences for the architects of the killing in Darfur.

Top photo by wanderingzito (Creative Commons)

Bottom photo by hdptcar (Creative Commons)