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.