On Bashir

I’ve resisted writing a post on the ICC warrant on Bashir. Wronging Rights, as usual, gets it right:

When something like an ICC warrant comes floating down into Sudan, it’s not blind, impartial justice. It is an act of power, directed at one party to an ongoing conflict. If it takes full effect, and Bashir gets sent to the Hague, then it is a coup removing a leader from power. And while there are a lot of organizations that think that’s a good idea (The Enough Project does, to judge from this detailed report), if that’s what the international community is doing, shouldn’t we acknowledge it? “Ocampo deposes President” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as “ICC issues arrest warrant.”

And while we’re at it, maybe we should acknowledge that he’s unlikely to be replaced by a Sudanese Mother Theresa. If Bashir goes, but his ruling NCP party keeps power, then the people who will succeed him are not exactly the nicest guys.

Read the full post here.

WSJ Europe has an excellent editorial as well (and that is something I seldom say):

Far from putting pressure on Mr. Bashir to step down, as proponents of the ICC warrant claim, the indictment will only harden his resolve to stay. Since no rapid U.N reaction force to arrest him is on the horizon, cutting a deal with Mr. Bashir and offering him some sort of exile and immunity from prosecution is probably the most promising way to stop Khartoum’s war against its own people…

If the Security Council was serious about removing Mr. Bashir, it could invoke its responsibilities for international peace and security — which arguably supersede the Rome Statute — to override the ICC’s indictment. Yet the U.N. lacks the political will to do so. This is in keeping with its longstanding abandonment of responsibility on Darfur. For years the Security Council regularly emasculated U.S. sanction proposals, preferring instead to stand by as 300,000 Darfurians were killed and millions made refugees.

Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo assured reporters in The Hague Wednesday that Mr. Bashir will face “justice” just as Slobodan Milosevic did. But the Serbian dictator’s trial took place only after NATO had put an end to his ethnic-cleansing campaign and after a regime change in Belgrade.

I only add the following observations:

1. The ICC case against a small-fish warlord in the Congo is falling apart from incompetent lawyering and the corruption of a free trial

2. The (toothless) indictments of the LRA leadership in Uganda has at best stymied the peace process (but not the killing)

3. It’s not clear that an international law like the Rome Statute even applies to a non-signatory state

These are the jokers we’ve empowered to depose heads of state. I might be in favor of a competent ICC, but not this one.

3 thoughts on “On Bashir

  1. The ICC can’t be held responsible for the political ramifications of its decisions if it’s going to be viewed as a legitimate court of justice. Once the UN security council referred the case to the ICC, what can they do except evaluate the evidence and make a case, if they feel the evidence warrants it? These guys are lawyers, not conflict resolution experts, and they don’t have the expertise to decide what’s best for conflict resolution in these areas. They shouldn’t try, or they’ll only deepen the view, which already exists, that the ICC only prosecutes war crimes that don’t rock the international boat. Any blame for the impact of the Bashir arrest warrant has to be put on the UN security council I think. They are the ones who initiated the process and they are the ones who should be looking out for the welfare of the Sudanese people.

  2. While clearly there are some problems with the ICC, though I think it’s pretty clear that it has jurisdiction over Sudan since the Security Council referral, I think Kevin Heller’s post – http://opiniojuris.org/2009/03/09/what-exactly-does-michael-kleinman-think-we-should-do-about-darfur/ – is a good argument in favour of the indictment.

    I don’t think the problem is the ICC indictment, since I’d hope a good international criminal court would indict people like Bashir, but rather the lack of action by the Security Council that is the main thing to be complaining about. And while it would be nice to be able to ‘cut a deal’ with Bashir, history has shown he just keeps using negotiation and diplomacy to stall for time and continue doing whatever he wants with Sudan.