Monday, July 14, 2008
Targeting Sudan's president won't help
published by the Philadelphia Inquirer
Posted on Tue, Jul. 15, 2008
The possible indictment of Sudan President Omar al-Bashir by the International Criminal Court (ICC) comes as a dangerous and unhelpful development on the issue of Darfur and the unfortunate victims in that troubled region of Sudan.
The issue of Darfur is a political one involving militant groups that use violence to fight a legitimate government over perceived injustices. The issue is not supposed to be resolved through a criminal indictment of a head of state, but rather through political reconciliation between the state and the groups that fight it.
Indeed, there are legal questions with regards to the legality of the indictment and a possible international arrest warrant against Bashir. One question is whether Bashir is entitled to immunity.
The fact that Sudan is not a signatory to the Rome Statute that established the ICC raises the question of whether this statute can bind only states that are a party to it and not those that are not, such as the United Sates. Another question is whether U.N. Security Council resolution 1593, which referred this case to the ICC, can imply the removal of a sitting head of state.
Aside from the humanitarian crises that arose out of this conflict, we must not forget that Sudan, the state, is entitled to preserve its geographical integrity and prevent any party, domestic or international, from breaking up the country through armed struggle.
In the United States, hundreds of thousands of Americans died in a civil war waged by the federal government against one of its regions in order to preserve the unity of the country and prevent its dismemberment. Even today, the United States government - or any government, for that matter - would not let any state or group simply split or break away from the country.
International law, however, appears to be aimed at punishing weak and third-world countries if they are deemed as misbehaving according to the standards of Western powers.
As this issue demonstrates, international law is designed to preserve the interests of the big powers against small, helpless nations.
Sudan is perceived as not playing by the rules set forth by the Western powers when it comes to its energy supplies, its stand on the Arab-Israeli conflict, and its position on Iraq.
Treated differently is Israel, a country that violates international law by continuing its occupation of Palestinian and other Arab lands. It has unilaterally declared Jerusalem as its capital even though international law clearly states that Jerusalem is an occupied city and therefore cannot be declared an integral part of Israel or have its geography or demographics changed by building Jewish-only settlements.
Furthermore, when it comes to the wall Israel is building on occupied territories, international law sided with the Palestinian legal argument and declared the wall illegal. Israel simply ignored the ruling, and no international body, no country, is willing to do anything about it.
There are also legal arguments, as well as moral ones, against those responsible for the invasion and occupation of Iraq, a country that did not attack or threaten the United States. Thousands of Iraqis were killed as a result of this war. In addition, millions were displaced or became refugees. So we see that Western powers can get away with virtually anything for political considerations, but poor nations must bear the full brunt of the law.
That said, Bashir should do more to help his country to come out of this ugly war and bring Darfur and its tribes back to the fold of Sudan on equal footing with a peaceful resolution to this tragic conflict. But with this threat of indictment, the international community is exacerbating the problem and making matters even worse, especially for all of the innocent victims in Sudan.