Appeals Chamber Reverses Pre-Trial Chamber in Bashir Warrant Decision.

The International Criminal Court made history in March of 2009 by issuing an arrest warrant for a sitting head of state, Omar Al Bashir, the President of Sudan. The warrant for his arrest was based on allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The pre-trial chamber though declined to issue a warrant for the charge of genocide, finding at the time that the prosecutor had not established sufficient evidence of genocidal intent.

Today the appeals chamber of the ICC issued a decision, available here, determining that the pre-trial chamber erred by using the wrong standard for making its determination. The pre-trial chamber decided that since genocidal intent was only one of the reasonable inferences based on the evidence submitted and that a warrant should not issue for genocide. The appeals chamber reasoned that the pre-trial chamber read in too high a requirement when reading the statute’s requirement that a warrant of arrest required “reasonable grounds to believe” that a crime within the jurisdiction of the court occurred.

The appeals chamber said the pre-trial chamber’s determination effectively required the prosecutor to establish its case beyond a reasonable doubt and “disprove any other reasonable conclusions.”  The appeals chamber determined that this effectively required a trial standard of proof at the issuance of an arrest warrant and did not recognize the statute’s escalating standards of proof, “reasonable grounds to believe” at the warrant stage, “substantial grounds to believe” at the confirmation of charges stage and “beyond reasonable doubt” for a conviction at trial.

The appeals chamber did not issue a warrant based on charges of genocide but sent the matter back to the pre-trial chamber for a determination based on whether or not there are reasonable grounds to believe that Bashir and the Government of acted with genocidal intent in Darfur.  The court’s press release summary of the decision is available here.