Sudan and the International Criminal Court

… a guide to the controversy

Linked with Alex de Waal – England, and with Social Science Research Council SSRC.

Published on openDemocracy, by Alex de Waal, July 14, 2008.

The request to indict Sudan’s president on charges of genocide and war crimes in Darfur is a historic moment in international justice. But is it wise, and will it bring peace in Sudan nearer or destabilise the country further? Alex de Waal presents the many sides of a vigorous debate 14 – 07 – 2008

Today, 14 July 2008, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court ICC, Luis Moreno-Ocampo asked the court to indict the president of Sudan, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Darfur.

Here, Luis Moreno-Ocampo is taking a bold and momentous step for global human rights and for Sudan. It is also controversial and fraught with danger. Will this be a historic victory for human rights, a principled blow on behalf of the victims of atrocity against the men who orchestrated massacre and destruction? Or will it be a tragedy, a clash between the needs for justice and for peace, which will send Sudan into a vortex of turmoil and bloodshed?

Over the last month, the Social Science Research Council SSRC blog has hosted a debate on the imminent indictment, which has attracted diverse contributions by scholars and experts …

… These legal issues will arise only if the judges of the court decide to uphold an application from the prosecutor and issue an indictment. The focus will now shift to the next act in this drama – the decision of the judges. If past experience is a guide, they will take at least a month to examine the application.

The UN Security Council’s approach to the Darfur crisis has deployed a vast array of instruments including sanctions, peace processes, peacekeeping and the ICC. These decisions have rarely been coordinated and prioritised, and the last four years appear increasingly like an exercise in giving powerful new weapons to untrained foot-soldiers who lack a single commander. These weapons may cause less danger to the enemy than the risk of friendly-fire casualties to their own side. Some fear that the Security Council referral of Darfur to the ICC may yet turn out to be the international community’s biggest self-inflicted wound. (full text).

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