No Deferment on Bashir Arrest Warrant!

It is really maddening, but not surprising, to read African leaders “demanding” the UN Security Council defer the indictment of the Sudanese President Bashir for “genocide for mass killings in Darfur” by the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo. This is yet another example of African leaders looking out for one another at the expense of their own people.

According to the Guardian article, arguments used against the indictment include the situation on the ground could get much worse, and the Sudanese government and its supporters may make it impossible for aid agencies to care for the Darfur refugees, which are valid concerns.

What is baffling is one argument used by the African leaders, that the International Criminal Court is “picking on Africa” by indicting Bashir. Are they serious?!?! Are they saying that African war criminals should be exempt from prosecution because they have already gone after the former Liberian President Charles Taylor? So no more African war criminals should be prosecuted until another war criminal from a different continent is prosecuted first? Or do we have to wait until one war criminal from each continent is indicted before we go after another African war criminal? Just incredible! This is mind bogglingly stupid and heartless! Any African leader who uses this argument again should be mercilessly ridiculed.

What is heartening is that the victims themselves want Bashir prosecuted:

The strongest counter to this position comes from an unexpected quarter – from Sudanese human rights and civil society activists who would surely bear the brunt of any government backlash. They insist that there can be no trade-off between justice and peace in Sudan.

“The survivors in the camps say only justice can make a difference. There can be no peace without justice,” Salih Osman, a human rights activist from Darfur and a member of Sudan’s national parliament, said during a visit to London this week. “The survivors say: ‘We have nothing to lose. There is no peace, and there is no deployment of the hybrid force.’

Who should the UN Security Council listen to, the self serving AU leaders who are protecting one of their own or the victims themselves? OK, if that isn’t convincing enough, how about taking Bashir’s past actions and history into account?

The second point Sudanese dissidents make is that the Bashir government only responds to pressure. It does the minimum necessary to deflect international scrutiny and as soon as it detects a relaxation, it goes back to business as usual. Bashir responded to Moreno-Ocampo’s announcement by going to Darfur for the first time and making a reconciliatory speech admitting there could be no military solution.

Osman Hummaida, another human rights activist went further in arguing that an indictment could usher in a more conciliatory government in Khartoum, which would strengthen the prospects for peace in Darfur and the south.

“In terms of the political agenda, it has impacted positively. It has demoralised the hardliners. The people backing reform are in a better position now,” Hummaida said.

“There are people in the [ruling National Congress party] NCP with a heavy financial interest. They want to engage with the international community and they may not let one person stand in the way.”

If these aren’t convincing arguments in favor of issuing the arrest warrant against the Sudanese president, then I don’t know what is.

The author also gives another great example of how indicting the then President of Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic, for war crimes may have hastened the fall of his regime. If members of the UN Security Council vote to delay the indictment, one message they may send to Bashir’s victims, however unintentional, is that his crimes aren’t on the same scale as that of Milosevic’s.

I hope the Security Council and the ICC do the right thing and give the people of Darfur the justice they want and deserve. If not, it may be necessary to start an online petition demanding the UN Security Council not defer the indictment, and that the ICC issue an arrest warrant.


The ICC “asked for more evidence” before it decides on whether to issue an arrest warrant. Lets hope this isn’t a sign of the ICC succumbing to the pressure of the lobbying by the African leaders.

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