Al-Hayat, a London-based newspaper published on Monday this commentary by a regular contributor, Abdallah Iskandar. His main points deserve attention. One of those points is that the regional organizations, especially the AU and the Arab League, will not easily support indictments for fear of this being a precedent for other member’s nations in terms of their human rights and good governance track records. Another important point is that Bashir’s regime’s tight grip on the country isn’t something to be dismissed. ICC Prosecutor General Luis Moreno-Ocampo’s use of pressuring Khartoum does nothing to weaken Bashir and it leaves the victims in Darfur more vulnerable as international organizations head out for fear of being caught in the cross-fire. Finally, rebels and those who oppose Bashir have gotten the wrong message. The rebels will see any gestures or actions toward internal peace negotiations questionable with the international pressure to pursue his indictment. As Iskandar mentions, this could lead to more armed conflicts.
Russia has recognized the AU’s appeal to the Security Council to put on hold the ICC decision to accept the court’s chief prosecutor’s call for an indictment. Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin told reporters that the Security Council should be attentive to the appeals. He has also stated that Russia should not be the one initiating the suspension process. However, he did point out that there is “a lot at stake in terms of peacekeeping in eastern Africa, and in terms of the future of Sudan.”
Russia is not a party to the ICC. Neither are the US or China. To clarify what Article 16 of the ICC statute states, basically it states that the Security Council can pass a resolution suspending ICC investigations or prosecutions for a one year.
Last week, an emergency meeting of Arab Foreign Ministers in Cairo on the issues of cooperation between the AU and UN was held. This week, AU-UN Joint Special Representative for Darfur, Rodolphe Adada, met with Arab League Secretary General, Amr Moussa. Previously, Moussa had consulted with Al Bashir and top Sudanese officials regarding an Arab League initiative to resolve the current crisis after the recent ICC charges against Bashir. The result of the meeting was conveyed by Adada, who told reporters that the Mission is determined to lend all support to the new Chief Mediator for Darfur, Djibril Bassole. He reassured Moussa that the AU-UN Joint mission will be carried out in Darfur and that protection will be offered to the civilian population on an ongoing basis. The two also discussed the new troops that will be sent in by the end of the month to strengthen UNAMID efforts. The recent indictment by the ICC is totally separate from the mandates of UNAMID.
In response to recent calls by the ICC to have Bashir charged with war crimes, Sudan has agreed to set up special courts to try alleged human rights abuses in Darfur. UN and Arab League officials will monitor the special courts.
From my Perspective
Although the international community continues to cry foul about the human rights issues and good governance issues in Sudan, the international community misses an opportunity to use transitional justice solutions other than criminal prosecutions that involve commissions, security reform, dialogue, and building incentives toward reconciliation. Efforts should complement one another. Creating alarming signals to rebel groups doesn’t this purpose. An approach must foster reconciliation between warring parties and still address the violations in such a way that improves the society in Sudan and doesn’t put innocent victims at greater risk. Equally, the international community’s efforts toward helping the victims in Darfur will be more readily met by working with the local justice measures within Sudan. Each society chooses its own path. Although there is a fundamental belief that hate crimes against any one group of people cannot be condoned, we must learn from past interventions and avoid repeating avoidable mistakes to be more effective.