19 Apr 2009

ICC has a moral duty to prosecute Sudan leader

Written by  Dawn Nagar

No. 103: ICC has a moral duty to prosecute Sudan leader / Dawn Nagar / The Sunday Independent

A leader of government is elected by its people to ensure the growth and protection of the nation.

The warrant that has been issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in connection with the grave injustices that have been committed against his people, particularly in the Darfur region, where an estimated 300 000 people have been killed since 2003, should therefore come as no surprise.

Peacemaking is not the job of the ICC, an international body established in the Hague in 2002 with a responsibility to protect victims of, and to prosecute perpetrators of, crimes against humanity. Its existence is based on that of a prosecutorial authority tasked with acting to deal with those who commit war crimes, and to prosecute those who condone genocide.

As al-Bashir now stands accused, after 19 years as leader of a Jihadist government in Khartoum, of condoning the killing of civilians in Darfur, the ICC — through its Argentinean chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo — has exercised its moral duty to intervene.

Since Sudan has not ratified the ICC's founding Rome Statute, it can be argued that the body has no business investigating war crimes in that country.

However, article 13b of the Rome Statute indicates that, in cases in which war crimes appear to have been committed, they can be referred to the prosecutor by the UN Security Council.

As far back as 2005, a report submitted by Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary-General, to the Security Council, expressed his concern over Darfur.

The UN estimates that more than 3 million Darfuris have been displaced. The 300 000 deaths in the province are directly linked to the lack of governance and the violence in Sudan. The high mortality rate is exacerbated by people being forced to flee from their homes; starvation; murder; rape; and abuse of women and children.

There is an urgent need to seek an appropriate response to the Darfur conflict.

The situation is, after all, a complex one as it involves governments, rebel groups, and great powers such as China.

Previous attempts made to achieve peace and stability in Darfur, as evidenced in the peace agreements signed between the rebel factions and the Sudanese government as far back as 2004, have broken down in acrimony.

More effective efforts need to be made to draw on the UN, its powers, and regional actors to address the conflict.

These include: dealing with its social, economic, and political problems; reining in the government-backed militia; disarming rebel groups; putting stringent peace-building efforts in place to beef up the 15 000-strong UN/African Union hybrid peace-keeping force; and, most importantly, prosecuting those who commit barbaric violations of human rights.

Dawn Nagar is a researcher at the Centre for Conflict Resolution Cape Town

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