Mixed opinions abound on the ICC’s indictment of Sudanese President Bashir.
The New York Times editors say yea, as does John Prendergast & Co. Richard Goldstone, the former chief prosecutor of the International Tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda, likewise argues in favor of the ICC’s move.
Here’s what worries me about the arguments of the yea-sayers:
1. Aid is already hobbled, as is peacekeeping. So how much worse can it get? My worry: actually, a great deal. Why downplay these risks? Darfurians deserve an honest accounting of the danger they face, and a commitment to protect them. Is there a plan?
2. The Taylor and Milosevic indictments worked, so will this one. These are valid successes–albeit by other institutions. But no one highlights the performance of the ICC on its caseload so far. The curious Congo case is falling apart. The other two have the potential to be blunders as well.
3. The indictments are a lever that can be removed once the Sudanese play along. That’s what they said about Uganda. But many believe that the ICC’s refusal to remove the indictments (even when the rebel leadership was cooperating) has been the chief stumbling block to a peace agreement. Are we sure the ICC will play along on such an important case as Sudan?
4. There is no peace process in Darfur to end. More or less correct. But what about the (equally or more important) relationship with southern Sudan (closer to collapse every day), the 2009 elections, or the endangered peace with neighboring Chad? What’s more, if there is movement to a peace process, can international mediators work with an indicted war criminal? The regional ramifications are not being addressed, at least in public.
5. All other diplomatic options have been exhausted. What about asset freezes, travel bans, condemnations, and trade sanctions–against Bashir and his coterie?
6. Peacekeeping hasn’t worked. There are more than 15,000 peacekeepers in Liberia to Darfur’s 10,000. Yet Darfur is dozens as times as large (and is more dangerous to boot). The Darfur force has been undermanned, undertrained, and undersupplied. What do they say they need most? 1000 helicopters. And more warm bodies. Without it, the peacekeepers have been predictably vulnerable and impotent.
7. The indictments might push Bashir to a compromise. Absolutely. It could. I hope. But with these indictments, Ocampo gambles not only with the country and regional peace, but with the stature of the ICC itself. And he may be doing it on his own agenda, not based on consultations with the UN Security Council or the African Union peacekeepers. We really don’t know to whom he talked. If it’s anything like Uganda and the Congo, the answer is: not too many people.
None of these are reasons to oppose the indictments. They should, however, give us pause. We should also expect answers. I’ll be less worried once I get them. So, more importantly, might the Darfurians.