Following the International Criminal Court's issuance of a warrant for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, Human Rights Watch contacted Darfuris in and outside of Sudan, and gathered their reactions to the announcement. (Some names have been changed out of concern for their safety.)
"The problems of attacks and rapes and killings in Darfur have gone on for years, and it is the head of state Omar al-Bashir who is responsible for them. He supported the Janjaweed to kill and ordered bombing of villages. I've seen evidence of this myself. I had to bury the bodies of seven children, three women, and four old men who died from government bombs in Um Baru in 2004, and I helped bury many bodies in mass graves in South Darfur. Until now the attacks are ongoing. If Bashir is arrested and tried by the ICC, Darfurians will be so happy. People all over Sudan will be celebrating."
- Idriss, West Darfur
"The hundreds of thousands of victims of the government's savage scorched-earth campaign in Darfur demand justice. Any individual responsible for authorising, organising or executing the massive crimes committed against them should be held accountable. The decision of the ICC to issue a warrant against Marshal Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir is long overdue - it sends a decisive signal to all individuals who participated in the rapes, mass killing, pillaging, and burning of villages in Darfur that they are no longer immune from prosecution. This decision also put to the test the world resolve to protect civilians in need and to combat impunity. It is thus morally and legally binding upon all states member of the United Nations organisation to cooperate with the ICC in implementing its mandate and to prosecute the perpetrators of the crimes committed in Darfur"
- Abdelbagi Jibril, executive director, Darfur Relief and Documentation Centre (DRDC)
Note: the Darfur Relief and Documentation Centre put out a joint statement today with other NGOs representing Darfuris, available at: http://www.darfurcentre.ch/
"This decision is historically such a big decision. It is also an opportunity to show Sudan's uniqueness, for looking differently at this country with its bloody record of wars and violations of human rights, an opportunity to present a different face of the people and nation of Sudan. It paves the way for justice, peace, healing, redress, reconciliation, and all the hopes and intensions of this nation."
- Abdel Monim el-Jak, human rights activist
"The arrest of al-Bashir will bring freedom to people of Sudan. They will be free to move around and women will not be afraid to collect firewood. Sudan will enter a new period."
- Nadullah, West Darfur
"Since last year, four more of my family have died in Darfur. They were not army. They didn't hold any gun. Two weeks ago they killed my cousin - without any reason - they killed all the Zagawa who were there. The solution to the problem in Darfur has not come - people talk about Darfur and many organizations try to work on it, but still people are being killed. They are living without any protection. Children have lived for five years or more without education, without health, without security. This is the 21st century. To have this situation now is really a shame - for all countries, not just for Sudan. This man should be brought to justice - he made a genocide in my country against innocent people"
- Ahmed, United Kingdom (fled Darfur in 2005)
"I left in 2004. I was with my family when the Janjaweed came with men from the government in the night and attacked the people and burned the houses. My brother and father were killed. I had to leave my mother and my sister there and I fled in the night - to Chad and then on to Nigeria. It took me 31 days to get to England. I have been here since then but I cannot trace my mother or my sister. I left them in Darfur but I do not know what has happened to them.
"The warrant [from the ICC for President al-Bashir], it is so important. That man is a criminal. His people came in the night and they killed people for nothing, they dropped bombs from the sky, they did terrible things. Every month he gave guns and money and horses to Janjaweed to go and kill people - and if they did kill people he gave them more money. Even Arab tribes, even Janjaweed, they lost their lives for nothing too. I am so happy there is a warrant - every day I pray that this man is caught and taken to The Hague. Many people from Darfur will want to celebrate but it is difficult - there are other people there who are working with the government or who are brainwashed and they don't understand what is going on - they might be angry. But if you kill hundreds of thousands of people for nothing then you should get justice.
"The warrant is good news for freedom. There have been other criminals - Charles Taylor or Milosevic - if anyone like that who is guilty ends up in court, then there will be more freedom."
- Ibrahim, United Kingdom (fled Darfur in 2004)
"I have done many investigations into attacks, killings, and rapes in Darfur by government soldiers and militias. Until now Bashir is still supporting the Janjaweed and ordering attacks and people in Darfur are still suffering. Just a few weeks ago there was a huge attack on Muhajariya, South Darfur and the government bombed villages. Bashir and his people should go to The Hague and be tried and punished."
- Ahmed, South Darfur