Turn of the screwdriver – genocide, justice or peace for Darfur?
Sudan’s ambassador to the United Nations Abdalmahmoud Abdalhaleem says Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, is “a screwdriver in the workshop of double standards” for seeking to prosecute the president of Sudan, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, for genocide in Darfur. He rejects the term genocide and says the prosecutor is unfairly picking on Africa’s largest country and ignoring war crimes elsewhere.
Moreno-Ocampo accuses Bashir of launching a genocide campaign in 2003 that was intended to wipe out three ethnic groups in Darfur, a desolate and remote region of western Sudan where oil was discovered in 2005. He says the Sudanese leader used mass murder, rape, deportation and “slow death” by starvation and disease to kill tens of thousands in Darfur. Moreno-Ocampo wants the ICC judges to issue an international arrest warrant for Bashir.
Khartoum rejects the charges and says it will never hand over any of its citizens to The Hague, where the ICC is based. Like the United States, Russia and China, Sudan is not a party to the ICC, though the Security Council referred the issue of Darfur to the court in 2005.
Abdalhaleem says that if the judges decide to indict Bashir it will ignite a “curtain of fire” that will engulf all of Sudan and the region. He has yet to provide details, but U.N. peacekeeping officials say they are worried.
China, Russia, South Africa and others fear an indictment of Bashir would shatter the fragile peace process in Darfur and have vowed to push the Security Council to freeze the ICC investigation of Bashir. The United States, Britain, France and other Western powers say they do not want to tamper with the independence of the ICC and oppose intervening.
The African Union, the Arab League and non-aligned nations have also urged the council to suspend any ICC indictment of Bashir. Russia’s U.N. envoy Vitaly Churkin has said that the countries calling for a suspension comprise roughly two-thirds of the earth’s population.
Those arguing for a suspension say the top priority should be the full deployment of all 26,000 U.N.-African Union peacekeepers (only 9,500 are there now) and a swift end to the 5-year-old conflict in Darfur, in which international experts believe at least 200,000 have died, with another 2.5 million left hungry and homeless.
Richard Dicker, an international justice expert at the New York-based Human Rights Watch, says the opposite is true — nothing could be better for peace in Darfur than to indict, arrest and try the man believed to be responsible for orchestrating the genocide.
What do you think? Is the West guilty of applying double standards for justice in the developing world? Do you fear a “curtain of fire” in Africa if Bashir is indicted? Should the world push for peace in Darfur now and worry about indictments later? Or should justice come first for the victims of war crimes in Darfur, whatever the cost?