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04.04.2009 Africa

The ICC Indictment Of President Omar Bashir: Implications And Expectations

By Dr. V. Antwi-Danso -
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The International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague, The Netherlands, has finally indicted President Omar Al-Bashir of Sudan, implicating him in the murder, torture, and rape of the people of Darfur. This is the first time that a sitting President has been indicted by the Court.

Before we go into analyzing the implications and the expectations, let us, as we often do, use this opportunity to educate our dear readers on the difference between the ICC and the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Few people know the difference between the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

While the latter is an organ of the United Nations and deals primarily with issues concerning nations, the former was set up as a multi-lateral institution to ensure that crimes against humanity do not go unpunished.

In effect, the ICC deals with individuals (criminal cases), while the ICJ deals with contentious issues among nations and/or international organisations, interpreting treaties/rules, and giving advisory opinions.

Incidentally, both sit at The Hague, which also adds to the confusion.

There are also international tribunals, usually set up by multi-lateral bodies (eg. UN Tribunal for Rwanda; UN Tribunal for Sierra-Leone etc.) So while it is a UN tribunal that is trying Charles Taylor, it was the ICC that tried the former Serbian leader, Slobodan Milosevic.

We have had occasions in this column to explain what is happening in Sudan.

The long years of war with the South, the Dafur region and the north-eastern parts of the country has made Sudan one of the most unstable countries in Africa. It took almost 22years of internecine war with the South before a seeming, but shaky peace was brokered, giving the latter some autonomy.

The Darfur region then sought a similar arrangement but Bashir supported and armed pro-government militias (specifically the Janjaweed) to virtually annihilate the predominantly black race in Darfur. Nearly 20 years of Bashir's reign has brought no peace to Sudan, especially as he turned Sudan into a haven for Muslim militancy.

Al Turabi, Osama bin Laden and others are some of such Muslim fundamentalists that have used and continue to use Sudan as a platform either for launching attacks or for the recruitment, training and indoctrination of militants. More than 300, 000 people have died and over 2, 700, 000 displaced.

The over six-year war in Darfur has created one of the sorriest humanitarian disasters the UN and other agencies have had to grapple with.

What has been baffling in all these is Bashir's intransigence. It took more than twelve years into his reign before he succumbed to international pressure to smoke theĀ  peace pipe with the South. He denied UN intervention in Darfur and thus delayed the deployment of troops for years, thereby exacerbating the plight of the refugees and combatants.

He has on many occasions called the bluff of the African Union and the UN by simply ignoring the many resolutions passed against him and his government.

Against this background, the indictment seems to be in order. Unfortunately, Bashir is again showing intransigence and bluffing once more. He has expelled thirteen of the humanitarian agencies working in Darfur.

He has traveled to some Arab countries, most of whom have not ratified the ICC Treaty.

Clearly, this is a test case for the United Nations. Of course, the fact that a country has not ratified a treaty does not mean that it may not obey the tenets of the said treaty. Any country may arrest Bashir and send him to The Hague.

However the indictment has not been well received neither by the AU nor the Arab League. Of course it has divided various organisations.

Members of the Arab League quarreled among themselves at their latest meeting in Doha over Bashir's indictment, with the Libyan leader, Muarmar Gadhafi, allegedly insulting the Saudi King in the face, calling him a traitor and a stooge of the West.

The AU has called it 'premature', noting that it would exacerbate the situation in Dafur as well as put peacekeepers in danger. These, as we have said, are really already happening.

All in all, it is going to be difficult to get a consensus on Bashir's indictment. The Chinese have always played footsie where matters concerning Sudan are concerned.

They have a stronghold in the Sudanese economy. The Russians have not been bothered.

Most of the Arab world see it as a Western ploy to have a stranglehold not only on Sudan but on the whole of the Muslim world. In fact, some have questioned why the ICC is not targeting similar Western or North atrocities.

One Arab scholar mentioned the atrocities committed by General Schwaitzkoff , the American General who ordered the massacre of Iraqi troops, not in combat positions but retreating to Baghdad, in what has become famously known as the 'Highway of Death'.

These tendencies over the indictment are very unfortunate. If the work of the ICC would be devoid of such tendencies and/or interpretations, the world would always have some level of good governance.

Unfortunately, such monsters as Omar Bashir can always have a way of calling the bluff of the international community. But Bashir can run, he cannot hide.

The African Union, instead of protecting the man, must call for a 'man-hunt'. Sudanese people have suffered too much in the hands of Bashir.

If Al Turabi of all people has accepted the indictment, calling his host (Bashir) a monster and deserving of the indictment, then we think that Bashir, indeed has a case to answer.

Meanwhile, the ICC is hereby encouraged to ensure that such crimes as committed by citizens of the West, including Americans are highlighted in equal measure (even though the US also failed to accede to the ICC).

PS: Will somebody in the NDC be a little bold enough to tell Jerry John Rawlings to give the Atta-Mills government some breathing space? Agya Atta, you too, shake yourself small! After all, you are a Law Professor.

Dear Reader, stay blessed during this Easter and beyond!

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