Several news organizations, including The New York Times and Reuters, have quoted diplomats and United Nations officials who say that the International Criminal Court (ICC) has decided to arrest and indict Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for war crimes in Darfur.
However, the ICC has so far denied the media reports and said that judges have not made a decision about al-Bashir.
If an arrest warrant were to be issued by the international court, it would be the first such warrant against a sitting head of state.
Though the U.N. says that at least 300,000 have died in the conflict in Darfur and 2.5 million have been displaced, al-Bashir’s Sudanese government claims that only 10,000 people died and that it in no way constituted genocide. Sudan has denied all ties to the Janjaweed militias, who are blamed for much of the violence.
The U.K.-based human rights organization Aegis Trust recently released a short documentary featuring what it claims are former members of the Sudanese military and Janjaweed militia, who detail their alleged involvement in the Darfur conflict and discuss how the attacks were financed and carried out.
Read more about the film here.
Blogger “Michelle” wonders why the ICC and the media’s sources differ on the indictment decision:
Why the leak? I’m betting that the New York Times wouldn’t be likely to post such major news without a certain level of confidence in its sources…that is, enough confidence to allow it to weather the storm that could come from the ICC’s denials[…]
I think this might be an attempt, either by the UN or the ICC or both, to soften the political ground before the indictment is actually handed down. As I wrote previously, anxieties over Khartoum’s reaction to the arrest warrant, once it becomes official, are running quite high — by leaking the information in the days before the announcement, and then issuing an obligatory denial, someone out there might be trying to soften the blow, test the waters, or at least give a warning to the international community that this is finally coming.
The “For Sudan” blog also considers the ICC’s motives:
This could be a ploy by the ICC to keep the arrest warrant a secret, allowing them to arrest the President if he decides to go abroad and visit one of the member states of the Rome Statute, the agreement that created the court, without having publicly announced the arrest warrant. Or, they can simply still be in the process of working out the final details. Only time will tell.
Brett Schaefer of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty asks if the ICC is the proper forum for prosecuting Darfur’s war crimes:
Although supporters of the court have a noble purpose, there are a number of reasons to be cautious and concerned about the effect the ICC could have on national sovereignty and politically precarious situations the world over.
One of the most basic principles of international law is that a state cannot be bound by a treaty to which it is not a party. Further, long-standing international legal norms hold that a state cannot be bound to legal assertions that it has specifically rejected. The ICC, however, directly contravenes these norms and precedents of international law; it claims jurisdiction to prosecute and imprison citizens of countries that are not party to the Rome Statute and, more shockingly, over those who have specifically rejected the court’s jurisdiction.
[…]For these reasons and others, the United States has declined to join the ICC. It is not alone in its concerns as demonstrated by the many states that are not ICC parties. Major countries like China, India, and Russia have refused to ratify the Rome Statute out of concern that it unduly infringes on their foreign- and security-policy decisions — issues rightly reserved to sovereign governments.
In July, when the ICC chief prosecutor formally requested an arrest warrant for al-Bashir, blogger “Heba Aly” from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting wrote about the reaction in Sudan:
Endless opinion pieces in Sudanese newspapers have denounced the move. Daily, people who support the president have protested outside embassies who support the ICC, calling the decision “racist” and “unfair”.
They say the ICC is holding Sudan to a higher standard than say, the US, which they see as also responsible for their actions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. It sounds much like the anti-US sentiment I have heard in other parts of the Arab world. One man called those American actions genocide too – I’m not sure he understood what the word means. Sometimes, I think these people have been given lines to rehearse and say to the media, and the extent to which they understand and believe in what they are saying is questionable.
But that’s not to say there is nothing real about the anger over this decision. I think the biggest issue for people here is the perceived violation of sovereignty. I talked to one taxi driver who said he wasn’t a fan of Bashir, “but even if the devil was our president, no one would approve of this ICC decision” because Sudan is a sovereign country and “we should be the ones to remove him.”