THE suffering of many people in Darfur will probably be intensified as the result of the decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to indict Sudan's President al-Bashr for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The President immediately ordered the withdrawal of Western aid agencies from the Darfur camps and villages where they have been virtually the only source of protection and humanitarian assistance for the past five years. This outcome of a decision by the Court to press charges against al-Bashr was anticipated and recognised as the terrible price that might have to be paid in order to establish that the ICC is an organisation that cannot be ignored, even by a President, when issues such as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity are at stake. If international behaviour is ever to be improved people like al-Bashr must be aware that they will be called to answer for their actions eventually.

It will be extremely difficult, but not impossible, to bring al-Bashr to justice. Those countries which will refuse to arrest him when they have the chance - almost all African nations, many Arab countries, China and Russia - will define themselves as wanting the freedom to act as he has done. The United States is in this category, too, but there is now a strong hope that President Obama will remedy that disgraceful situation.

On the day the national crimes against humanity cease to exist the day on which the ICC decided to prosecute President al-Bashr of Sudan will be remembered.