Posts Tagged ‘al bashir’

Sudan: Our Optimistic Prediction = Fail. Our Cynical One? Right On.

Monday, March 16th, 2009

 

Starting in November, we’ve predicted two alternative reactions that Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir could have if the ICC issued an arrest warrant. On the one hand, he could start acting all cooperative, and thereby appease a U.N. Security Council that wants any excuse to avoid ICC action here. On the other hand, Bashir could just terminate international aid to Darfur, kick out peacekeepers and aid workers, and then blame the resulting death and suffering on the West while he consolidates his local power.

It looks now like Bashir has gone with door number two. The BBC reports today that Bashir now says “he wants all international aid groups out of the country.” Speaking to a rally, Bashir stated that “within a year, we don’t want to see any foreign aid group dealing with a Sudanese citizen. If they want to bring relief, let them drop it at airports or seaports. Let [Sudan’s] national organizations deal with our citizens.”

Within the past week or so, Bashir has already expelled 13 large international organizations, claiming that they were spying for the ICC.

According to the Beeb, “the United Nations said the expulsions would leave millions at risk of a humanitarian crisis.”

So okay, lesson learned (re-learned, of course). Dictators don’t choose to go gently into that sweet good night of punishment at the hands of modern procedural justice. Go figure.

So then fine, but now what? Will the Security Council take this opportunity to announce a deferral of any prosecution, under Article 16 of the Rome Statute, in the stated interests of forestalling any humanitarian crisis? They could choose to be seen as pragmatic and wise, opting to sacrifice the individual prosecution of the dictator in order to save the lives of tens or hundreds of thousands. And of course, those P5 nations opposed to ICC action (China and Russia because Sudan is an important partner, and the U.S. because it doesn’t want the precedent of prosecuting a head of state) would have the out they’re looking for, all while appearing humane and acting for the best.

Or will they allow the ICC’s arrest warrant to continue, watch the foreign aid be expelled, watch Sudan’s warlord take control of any aid naively dropped off at the border, and stand on principle to bring the rule of law to failed states?

We’re going to go with the cynical prediction this time. Just a hunch.

Can the ICC Execute its Warrant?

Thursday, March 5th, 2009

 

The ICC has, at long last, issued a warrant for Sudan’s military dictator, Omar al-Bashir, on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Although the anticipated charge of genocide was left out, it remains a historical moment, as this is the first time the ICC has charged the current leader of a state, albeit a failed state.

To recap, in November, we noted that the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor was calling for al-Bashir to be charged personally with multiple counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Al-Bashir had seized power of the Sudan in 1989, and ruled ever since as the military dictator of one of Africa’s most ruthless regimes. In the Darfur region of western Sudan, a war had raged for about five years, with government troops and proxy fighters committing massive bloodshed against rebel groups as well as civilians and entire villages seen to be sympathetic to the rebels. Despite enormous outcry from the rest of the world, and pressure from the U.N. and powerful nations, al-Bashir had shown no inclination to temper or cease the bloodshed. On the contrary, it appeared that his regime had only ramped up the violence in a war that is estimated to have killed hundreds of thousands of human beings through murder, combat, starvation and disease. But after Moreno-Ocampo started calling for ICC charges to be brought against him, al-Bashir called for a unilateral cease-fire in an attempt to get the U.N. Security Council to defer any legal action.

Later, we reported that Moreno-Ocampo warned the Security Council that any criminal charges could cause al-Bashir to launch a violent reprisal against peacekeepers and civilians, and so the U.N. would need to be prepared to take action. Meanwhile, the African Union and the Arab League asked the Security Council to defer the prosecution, on the curious grounds that prosecuting war crimes and genocide were not helpful to the peace process.

It was beginning to look like the Security Council was going to go along with the crowd, and defer any prosecution indefinitely — even though doing so would have created a terrible precedent of appeasement and keeping out of situations like Darfur. So it was an act of unexpected conviction for the ICC to be permitted to go ahead and issue its warrant for al-Bashir.

The warrant doesn’t charge everything that Moreno-Ocampo had called for, notably omitting the charge of genocide. Still, it does charge the sitting head of state with “intentionally directing attacks against an important part of the civilian population of Darfur, Sudan, murdering, exterminating, raping, torturing and forcibly transferring large numbers of civilians and pillaging their property.”

Issuing a warrant is one thing. Executing said warrant, however, is an entirely different matter. When will the ICC get its chance to arrest al-Bashir? Moreno-Ocampo stated “as soon as al-Bashir flies outside Sudan, he could be arrested.” The odds of al-Bashir doing any such thing are vanishingly small.

So significant odds were overcome, courage was demonstrated, and a significant new precedent has been set in International Criminal Law. But practically speaking, there is little chance that anything will come of it. 300,000 are still dead, countless injured and suffering, and 2,700,000 refugees (according to the U.N.’s Darfur numbers), without any international action to punish those who committed the crimes.

It’s not over yet…

African Union Asks Security Council to Quit on Darfur

Friday, January 30th, 2009

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As previously reported, the ICC prosecution of Sudan’s leader Omar al-Bashir has had its share of challenges. Yesterday, the African Union threw another monkey wrench into an already shaky machinery.

The African Union is an international organization of all African nations except Morocco. The organization, which is expected to name Libyan head Muammar Khaddafi as its new chairman next week, lacks significant authority to do much more than scold or impose mild trade sanctions. But it does have a peacekeeping force in the Sudan. After the force ran out of funds a couple of years ago, the United Nations stepped in to run the operation in a joint effort known as UNAMID.

Yesterday, the AU formally called on the UN Security Council to suspend the ICC indictment of al-Bashir. The leadership fears that any arrest would cause violent uprisings by al-Bashir’s supporters. They also claim that al-Bashir is a necessary party to ongoing peace mediations in the region, and indicting him would derail the peace process.

The Security Council has authority to defer the prosecution under Article 16 of the Rome Statute, which established the ICC in 2002.

The Security Council’s permanent members already have incentives to stall the prosecution. The Sudan is a major oil supplier to China, and the two regimes are very tight. China also opposes any action that would create a precedent of interference in domestic affairs. Russia also has strong economic ties, particularly as the supplier of Sudan’s weapons and attack helicopters. The U.S. wants to avoid any precedent of having leaders held to “international” standards of conduct. Britain and France would prefer any solution that calms the ongoing violence, rather than causing more.

So the AU’s plea is certain not to fall on deaf ears. It’s almost as if the AU is preaching to the choir.

But the suspension of prosecution on these grounds would actually cause a much worse precedent for the AU and the UN. The position essentially boils down to “we’d better leave thugs alone, because if we try to enforce the rules then they’ll act like thugs.”

In other words, if the Security Council goes along with this, its policy will essentially be to stay out of situations like Darfur. This is contrary to the stated policies and desires of the UN and its membership. It would be a mistake from a policy point of view, and it would create an undesirable precedent from a legal standpoint.

The ICC should just get it over with. Exercise its authority, hold a civilized trial, and act accordingly. That would demonstrate to the world that it exists for a reason. Delay would only fan widespread belief in the ineffectiveness and injustice of international law, as crimes go unprosecuted and unpunished for years and years. If there’s sufficient evidence, then there’s no reason not to proceed. If there’s insufficient evidence, then let that come out too. Either way, let the world move forward.

But to refuse to act because of a fear that people might riot as a result… well, that just takes authority away from the civilized bodies and hands it back to the lawless types that law is supposed to protect against in the first place. It would be an act of cowardice masking itself as prudence, and would be despicable.

Upping the Ante in Darfur: ICC Prosecutor Warns of Reprisals

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

 

A couple of weeks ago, we reported that Omar al-Bashir had announced a unilateral ceasefire in an attempt to avoid being formally charged by the International Criminal Court. ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo had asked that al-Bashir be charged personally with multiple counts of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. We saw the ceasefire as an attempt to appease Britain and France in the hope that they would approve an Article 16 deferral of his prosecution.

We also pointed out that, if all else fails, al-Bashir could also just terminate the humanitarian aid to Darfur, kick out the U.N. / African Union peacekeepers, and blame the resulting death and suffering on the West.

But today, ICC prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo warned the Security Council that al-Bashir is already preparing to go the violent route. Moreno-Ocampo stated that al-Bashir has made direct threats of reprisals against peacekeepers and civilians. He added that “such threats should be seen for what they are: a confirmation of criminal intentions.”

We had also suggested that al-Bashir might think of throwing his (Orwellian-titled) Minister of Humanitarian Affairs to the wolves. But Moreno-Ocampo stated that al-Bashir is instead protecting that minister from the dozens of war crimes charges pending against him. “The impunity afforded to [the minister] is a direct message to all perpetrators of crimes in Darfur,” he said. “That message is, ‘the president will protect those who are following his orders.’”

Because al-Bashir appears to be readying more violence, Moreno-Ocampo warned the Security Council to be prepared to take action in carrying out any arrest warrant.

The Security Council, however, now appears less and less likely to do so. Although the Council had unanimously referred the matter to the ICC in the first place, now that push is coming to shove certain Council members are backing off. China, Russia and Libya, as we pointed out, have close ties to al-Bashir’s regime, and are unlikely to support a confrontation. The African Union and the Arab League have now also asked the Council to defer the investigation of al-Bashir, on the curious grounds that it’s not helpful to the peace process.

There are some small voices pushing for Security Council action, however. Costa Rica’s U.N. Ambassador, Jorge Urbina, stated that although there is disagreement among the Council members as to whether to approve an Article 16 deferral, “we regret very much the pressure that has been put on the Council to defer the case from the court. We believe that this pressure should [instead] be put on the government of Sudan to comply with the decision of the court.” Human rights groups are also pushing for a unanimous message from the Council that the Sudan regime must comply with the ICC and that it will not permit retaliatory violence.

By all appearances, then, it looks as though al-Bashir is going to get the deferral he sought. The combination of his ceasefire, his allies on the Council, and the fear of reprisal might just be enough to do the trick. The world now looks to the ICC to see whether it will actually issue the arrest warrant that will force everyone’s hand.

Biggest Plea Bargain Ever: ICC Gets Unilateral Ceasefire in Darfur

Friday, November 14th, 2008

 

Omar al-Bashir seized power of the Sudan in 1989, and has ruled ever since as the military dictator of one of Africa’s most ruthless regimes. In the Darfur region of western Sudan, a war has raged for about five years, with government troops and proxy fighters committing massive bloodshed against rebel groups as well as civilians and entire villages seen to be sympathetic to the rebels. Despite enormous outcry from the rest of the world, and pressure from the U.N. and powerful nations, al-Bashir has shown no inclination to temper or cease the bloodshed. On the contrary, it appears that his regime has only ramped up the violence in a war that is estimated to have killed hundreds of thousands of human beings through murder, combat, starvation and disease.

But earlier this week, al-Bashir announced a unilateral ceasefire.

He did so, not because of governmental pressure or diplomacy, but because the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, asked for al-Bashir to be charged personally with multiple counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Charges have not been formally brought, but the ICC is expected to go forward soon. If he is formally charged, he will be the only head of state to face ICC criminal proceedings. This would harm his position at home, especially if he were to be prosecuted for genocide, and if the charges were to stick. Despite appearances, al-Bashir is believed to truly fear a conviction under international criminal law.

To avoid that possibility, al-Bashir took advantage of a technicality permitting the U.N. Security Council to defer legal action. China, one of the five Security Council permanent members, is tight with its major oil supplier, and would likely go to bat for Sudan. Russia, another permanent member, has significant economic ties to Sudan, particularly as the supplier of weapons and attack helicopters used by the regime to such deadly effect.

He still needs to get the approval of the United States, Britain and France, however, if he wants to get a deferred prosecution under Article 16 of the Rome Statute (which established the ICC in 2002).

We know what you’re thinking — these three modern, civilized, Western powers would never go along with that. Well, you might be wrong. Letting the ICC prosecute a head of state would be a terrible precedent for the U.S., which routinely declines to be held to “international” standards of conduct. Britain and France are perceived as open to “positive responses” that make the problem go away.

Hence this week’s ceasefire. It’s a “positive response” that might help appease Britain and France. There’s more al-Bashir can do, of course. Sudan’s Minister of Humanitarian Affairs — the person responsible for the aid effort to Darfur — is already indicted on 51 war crime counts. Throwing the minister to the wolves would be another nice gesture.

And if all else fails, he can just terminate Darfur aid, kick out UNAMID (the wholly ineffective joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force), and then blame the resulting death and suffering on the West. That could work, too.

So far, however, it looks like he’s taking the plea. The world is watching to see if the ICC will actually be effective in halting the ongoing tragedy.