ICC


The International Criminal Court (ICC) indicted several people for the atrocities being committed in Darfur. The most famous of those wanted is of course, the president of Sudan, Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, who has mocked the tribbunal by traveling internationally since his arrest warrant was issued. But, the ICC indicted a rebel leader as well, Bahr Idriss Abu Garda (“Abu Garda”), a Zaghawa tribal member who is accused of leading an attack on an African Union peace keeping location in Northern Darfur. Twelve peace keepers died as a result of the attack. In a surprising  move, Abu Garda submitted to the  jurisdiction of  the ICC and voluntarily turned himself to an undisclosed ICC location. As a result of his cooperation, the ICC issued a summons to appear rather than an arrest warrant. This was the first time the court used a summons to appear. The Registrar of the Court, Ms Silvana Arbia, welcomed his arrival: “The voluntary appearance of Abu Garda might serve to encourage other suspects currently at large to come before the Court to be heard with all guarantees of a fair trial”. This is a milestone moment for the court and for all the nations who support the ICC. Hopefully, Abu Garda, although the first,  will not be the  last defendant to  appear voluntarily.

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Sudan’s president Hassan Omar al-Bashir thumbed his nose at the international community last week and made three trips outside of Sudan, despite the fact the ICC Prosecutor has indicted him and the court issued an arrest warrant against him. He is the first sitting head of state against whom an arrest warrant has been issued. The ICC indicted Bashir for crimes against humanity and war crimes in connection with the atrocities occurring in Darfur. The court stopped short of including charges of genocide as had been requested by the prosecutor. Bashir’s indictment and subsequent arrest warrant caused turmoil among African leaders and within the African Union. In fact, the AU petitioned the UN to delay both the indictment as well as the issuance of the arrest warrant, not because they support Bashir but because they have serious concerns about further destabilizing Sudan and the peace process underway. In addition, African leaders are a little wary of an international court that only seems to be indicting Africans. That is a legitimate concern. Most of the African countries are barely 50 years into independence from former colonial powers, and it is those same powers that now critique corruption and unstable African governments. You don’t have to scratch the surface of many conflicts in Africa to see the remnants of the old colonial hand and of contemporary World Bank polices. The ICC can gain some much needed credibility amongst African leaders by bringing a case against some humanitarian law violators who are NOT African. And there are several that are good potential targets. The ICC prosecutor says his office is working on bringing other cases. Time will tell whether the effort is sincere.

Nonetheless, on going support for Bashir is not warranted. The so-called peace process has been going on in the Darfur region since at least 2005 and no peace has been achieved. Darfurians continue to be attacked and die. And now Bashir is expelling all the NGOs who have been keeping hundreds of thousands of people fed. Thabo Mbeki, former president of SOuth Africa and now head of the AU’s Sudan special panel visited Sudan this past week to help further the peace negotiations. It may be too little too late. Archbishop Desmond Tutu appealed to the conscience of the continent to support the arrest of Bashir. But Bashir is not just Africa’s problem. Will the rest of the world have the resolve to do what they have promised to do? Will Bashir be arrested as he brazenly travels abroad? This is a fascinating case for the entire world. It is a time for African leaders to be especially courageous and take the high moral road, and for the rest of the nations who signed the Rome Treaty to do as they promised. Arrest Bashir and let justice run its course.