March 12th, 2010
02:21 PM ET

Genocide charges at the International Criminal Court?

Facing a warrant for his arrest hasn't seemed to slow down Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Following the announcement of the arrest warrant against him last March, Sudan's president appeared smiling and singing at a rally in Khartoum. The country's information minister, in an apparent rebuke to the charges against his president, referred to the International Criminal Court as "a white man's tribunal."

The warrant contained seven serious charges but genocide was not among them. Now an appeals chamber at the International Criminal Court ruled that genocide could be added. Given that the arrest warrant already contains seven serious charges, the CNN Fact Check Desk wanted to know: What would be the possible effect of adding a genocide charge?

Fact Check: What are the likely effects of adding a charge of genocide to the arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir?–The International Criminal Court (established in 2002) made history last March by issuing its first arrest warrant against a sitting head of state. The warrant contains seven charges that include: murder, extermination, forcible transfer, torture, rape, pillaging and intentionally directing attacks against civilians.

- The issuance of the original warrant does not appear to have had an impact on al-Bashir's travel, though he could be arrested if he leaves the country.

- According to Henry Carey, an international criminal justice professor at Georgia State University, the charge of genocide is substantively different from the charges al-Bashir is currently facing in that it includes "the intent to destroy a people." The prosecution would have to prove "that many civilians were killed unnecessarily to fit a pattern of extermination," according to Carey.

- The maximum punishment al-Bashir could face if found guilty of his crimes is life imprisonment. The court also could require reparation payments.

- Sentencing would be at the discretion of the "trial chamber," the judicial division of the International Criminal Court that will try the case.

Bottom Line:

The addition of a genocide charge could have an impact on the length of a sentence - if al-Bashir either surrenders himself to the court or is arrested and handed over by another country - and if he were found guilty of the charges against him.

–CNN's David McKenzie and Atitya Chhor contributed to this report.

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