Last week, the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague charged the President of Sudan with three counts of genocide related to crimes in the Western Darfur region. The court says Omar- Al-Bashir is responsible for efforts to exterminate three ethnic groups-the Fur, the Masalit and the Zaghawa.
Some in the press say it’s a bad decision to pursue his arrest at a time when he’s needed to help guarantee a successful referendum on independence for the south next year, and for peace talks regarding Darfur.
The Security Council can defer, disband and temporarily suspend proceedings. Some have suggested that warrants against President Bashir’s case could be suspended to help gain his support in stabilizing Sudan.
Elise Keppler, senior council with the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch, does not agree.
She says, “deferrals or suspensions are very exceptional limited measures that may only be granted or enforced by the Security Council to address threats to peace and security. The process of peace talks in Sudan has not really had much of a relationship with what’s been happening at the ICC. What we instead have is a situation where the threat of having some kind of a deferral actually risks resulting in impunity.”
“Right now we have a situation where horrific crimes have been committed and arrest warrants have been brought. So what is really essential here is that president al-Bashir appear before the court answer the charges against him and move on with the situation,” says Keppler
According to Keppler, the government of Sudan has been stonewalling, and obstructing efforts by this court to ensure justice for the heinous abuses in Darfur.
Many African remain critical of the court, which so far, has only brought charges against African leaders accused of international crimes. Many in the Arab League and the African Union have called for the ICC to drop charges against al-Bashir. And, the government of Sudan accuses the international court is using its influence to try to end peace talks between Khartoum it and its domestic opponents.
Keppler admits that there are imbalances in that some countries that are powerful – or with powerful allies – have been able to avoid justice. But the bottom line, she says, is to level the playing field of international justice, not give up on it.