the ICC and sudan

Genocide is going on in Darfur. So concludes Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), after three years of investigations into the atrocities in Sudan’s ravaged western province. He suggests the mastermind behind it all is Sudan’s own president, Omar al-Bashir. On Monday July 14th the prosecutor asked the court to indict Mr Bashir with ten counts of mass crimes, including three for genocide, and to issue a warrant for his arrest. This is a bold move.

It is the first time that this court has gone after a sitting head of state. (Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic and Liberia’s Charles Taylor were also indicted when still heads of state, by other international tribunals.) It is also the first time that it has sought an indictment for genocide, the gravest of all international crimes. Despite having been requested by the UN Security Council itself, in 2005, to investigate the atrocities, the prosecutor has come under intense diplomatic pressure not to aim for the top.

Some fear an indictment would undermine any hope of peace in Darfur. The 10,000 UN-AU peacekeepers in the province could come under further attack, and aid workers helping some 4m Darfuris could be thrown out. No doubt this is an issue which needs consideration, but one must also appreciate the importance of such a precedent- and the rammifications this may have for future conflicts. Sudan is a difficult situation to handle. Already there are demands that the Security Council defer the prosecution for at least one year, as it can under the ICC’s own statute. That would perhaps allow time to build the joint UN-AU force in Darfur up to its full authorised strength of 26,000 personnel.

Those in favour of pushing ahead with the indictment point out that there are no ongoing peace negotiations to upset. Peacekeepers are coming under attack from government-backed forces; seven more were killed in an ambush last week. Aid workers are likewise already being harassed, expelled and even killed. Will things get bloodier if the indictment goes ahead? It is unclear. Last year the court indicted the minister for humanitarian affairs in the Sudanese government, together with a janjaweed leader. There was certainly no reduction in the violence then, but nor did it get worse.

Justice must give way to peace, but there can be no lasting peace without justice.

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~ by k-rock and l-jive on July 17, 2008.

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