Posts Tagged ‘international policy’

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.