International Criminal Court (ICC), based in The Hague, is expected to indict
President Omar al-Bashir and other top Sudanese officials as soon as Monday for war crimes committed in Sudan’s Darfur region over the last five
years. But Sudan has said an ICC indictments against its top officials could
undermine attempts to end the Darfur conflict.
The African Union says the
search for justice should be pursued in a way that does not jeopardize peace
efforts in the region. President al-Bashir held an emergency Cabinet meeting
Sunday to discuss the situation.
Richard Dicker is director of the International Justice Program for the
New York-based Human Rights Watch. He told VOA that if
the prosecutor does request an indictment of President al-Bashir today, it
would mark a significant step to ending impunity for the horrific crimes that
have occurred in Darfur.
“I think it sends a message
that no one is above the law or beyond the reach of law for the mass slaughter
of civilians in and the use of rape as a weapon and forced enslavement in
Darfur,” he said.
Sudan has said an ICC
indictments against its top officials could undermine attempts to end the
Darfur conflict. But Dicker said Sudan has used such this threat in the past.
“The Sudanese, long before
the president was charged with crimes, had been saying that an investigation
and charges against the Janjaweed leader and the minister for humanitarian
affairs would be disrupted. So I don’t put any stock in what the Sudanese say
because they have tried to deflect criminal charges by using the peace talks as
a shield,” Dicker said.
On the other hand, Dicker
said he would not dismiss the concerns of those who believe that any
indictments would impact the peace process or attacks on the civilians or UN
and African Union peacekeepers because of the track record of the Sudanese
government since 2003 in attacking innocent civilians.
He hoped the Sudanese
authorities would understand their international obligation by not attacking
civilians and UN peacekeepers or interfere with humanitarian assistance.
Dicker said the ICC is not
exclusively targeting alleged African war criminals as some have suggested.
“I was there in June of 2001
when the former Serbia President Slobodan Milosevic was transferred for trial
before another international tribunal. I also remember when the former
president of Chile, Augusto Pinochet was taken into custody in London in 1998
by British authorities for an arrest warrant issued by the government of Spain.
Unfortunately Africa has been a scene of concentration of these kinds of crimes
to the point where three African governments have asked the prosecutor to
investigate,” he said.
Dicker said the ICC
prosecutor is also looking at crimes in Afghanistan and Colombia, South Africa.
He said even though the
people of Darfur are starving, their suffering cannot be compared to the human
rights violations that are being committed by the Sudanese government and its