Monday, July 21, 2008

The ICC vs Sudanese President Omar al Bashir: the beginning of the beginning of the end to what?

As I bring my work at Jewels in the Jungle to a close this year, I never thought that I would be writing about the crisis in Darfur again. Ashamedly I belong to the millions of people around the world that have practically given up on a peaceful resolution to the crisis in Sudan’s western province. When I first started this blog back in 2004, peace in Sudan and the atrocities against innocent civilians in Darfur were themes that I tried to address again and again. But Darfur was too complex for many of us bloggers who at that time had little knowledge of the background to the long-running wars and atrocities that have plagued this African country since its independence in 1956. It was a subject better left to the experts, scholars, diplomats, and foreign correspondents of the world, many who have devoted their professional careers and lives to the study and resolution of such conflicts.

Two things happened last week that compelled me to want to speak out once again.

First, the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo submitted his long-awaited criminal indictment against the President of Sudan, Omar Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir, requesting a warrant from the court’s judges for Bashir’s arrest. Of course such a request caused all Hell to break loose from the UN headquarters in New York City to the African Union and Arab League headquarters on the other side of the globe, as world leaders responded publicly in (feigned) shock to an indictment that they all knew was coming.

When the ICC Prosecutor’s indictment was read in public carried by news networks around the world, the people in the IDP camps of Darfur and Chad sent up cheers and hoots of joy that perhaps finally something was being done on their behalf to relieve the misery and suffering they have endured for over 5 years now. I certainly cheered while watching Mr. Moreno-Ocampo read the indictment summary at his press conference, backed by a black African female member of his very competent legal staff. The symbolism of that black & white duo in the press conference was very powerful and not lost on those of us who are even somewhat familiar with the complex ethnic and racial background to this abominable crisis.

I can imagine that the ICC prosecutor’s office is seeking international support for his move against al-Bashir and I want to say hear and now that I support this move by the honorable Mr. Moreno-Ocampo 150%. As a matter of fact I consider his action to be heroic in a world that has become increasingly cynical and downright despondent over the situation in Darfur and Abyei and all of the Sudan.

A second thing that occurred last week to help motivate me to write once again about this important subject is that my friend the editor-in-chief of the African Loft asked me to contribute to an online debate about the ICC indictment against the Sudanese president. The debate has only a dozen or so comments to date but it is quite civil and hopefully informative for all participants, and we have been joined by the Sudanese blogger Kizzie (I Have No Tribe, I’m Sudanese), a colleague and friend of the very popular blogger Drima of The Sudanese Thinker and editor for Sudan news at Global Voices Online. The debate at African Loft includes an interesting and civil exchange of opposing views on the ICC indictment between the honorable Mr. Oscar Blayton (a Washington DC area attorney) and “moi” (BRE).

So as I have stated the crisis in Darfur and the ICC indictment against Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir is very serious business, indeed. As I have always wished that this blog be a place of learning and sharing of ideas and opinions I shall waste no more of your valuable time with my own words. Below is a roundup of select news articles and reports about the ICC charges, the fallout over these charges against a standing head of state, and where all of this may be heading not only for the people of Darfur and all of Sudan, but for the whole damn(ed) world.

Jewels in the Jungle Global News Roundup for July 21, 2008
The International Criminal Court vs. Africa’s Top Dictator and Mass Murderer: Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmed Al Bashir

The Sudan Tribune
The Accused One’s Profile by Ahmed Elzobier – 07/21/08
Note: this is one of the best ever editorials I have read at this independent Sudan-in-exile (Paris, I think) news site. Here is an excerpt from the witty Mr. Elzobier:

The accused one’s profile: “He is kind and generous, a true Sudanese coming from a poor family”, says one of his government officials. However, we also know that human nature is not innately cruel and only rare sociopaths can participate in atrocities without suffering lasting emotional harm as psychiatrist Robert Lifton noted.

The rhetoric: The media in Sudan is all about representing one opinion and one voice. A Cold War era propaganda machine, not really concerned about objectivity or neutrality, or finding the truth. It is only about serving the ruling political party’s objectives, and dissenting voices are anathema. Since the news was leaked last Thursday it has unleashed its propaganda strategy in its fullest form and everything seems to be at stake:

“We are targeted, our sovereignty has been violated. The president is a symbol of the country and this is a conspiracy against Sudan. This is similar to what happened in Iraq. Our judicial system is fair and just and this is a political and not a legal accusation. This has never happened before. This happens to us because we believe in Islam. Because they know the National Congress Party (NCP) is going to win the election. Because of our successes and economic progress.”

The International Criminal Court – press releases
ICC Prosecutor presents case against Sudanese President, Hassan Ahmed Al Bashir, for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur – 07/14/08
Note: article with downloads of the summary of the case and the prosecutor’s statement are available in Arabic, English, and French languages
Office of the Prosecutor – bio of Luis Moreno-Ocampo

The New York Times and the NY Times blog ‘On the Ground
Prosecuting Genocide by Nicholas Kristof – 07/17/08
Your comments on my Darfur column of July 17th
China, Muslims, and the Genocide by Nicholas Kristof – 07/14/08

Memo from Africa: The Pursuit of Justice vs. the Pursuit of Peace by Lydia Polgreen and Marlise Simons – 07/11/08
Arrest is Sought of Sudan Leader in Genocide Case by Lydia Polgreen, Malise Simons, and Jeffrey Gettleman – 07/15/08

International Herald Tribune
Letter from China: Hands-off foreign policy a collapse of creativity by Howard French – 07/17/08
Note: veteran New York Times foreign correspondent for Africa and Asia Howard French comments on Beijing’s flawed policies toward despotic African states

The Economist
The International Criminal Court: Justice or expediency in Sudan? – 07/17/08
Political Immunity: Pulling back the blanket of immunity – 07/10/08

Jurist – Paper Chase (University of Pittsburgh School of Law)
ICC Prosecutor applies for warrant to arrest Sudan president – 07/14/08
Indicting Sudan’s President for War Crimes: Could George Bush be Next? – 07/15/08
The US and the International Criminal Court: Then and Now by David Scheffer - 07/16/08
Note: David Scheffer is a former US Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues and a professor at Northwestern University School of Law

The role of China and Russia in the Darfur crisis AND the bloody twenty year long civil war that ravaged southern Sudan is no state secret. As a result of their staunch economic, military, and diplomatic support for the Khartoum regime the governments of China and Russia have come into even sharper focus this month. On the heals of the ICC Prosecutor’s charges against President Omar al-Bashir the million dollar question at the United Nations Security Council over the next weeks will be: “What will China and Russia do if the ICC indictment and warrant for arrest gets kicked back to us?”

World Defense Review – Strategic Interests by Dr. J. Peter Pham
Sudan: The Beginning of the End – 07/15/08
Khartoum’s Partners in Beijing – 01/31/08
Note: Dr. Pham is a noted conservative Asian-American scholar on defense and strategic policy affairs. He is the Director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University.

BBC News and the BBC One Panorama
China’s Secret War (Panorama) with host Hilary Andersson – 07/15/08
China is ‘fueling war in Darfur’ by Hilary Andersson – 07/13/08
China rejects BBC Darfur claims – 07/15/08
Note: It’s great to see the veteran foreign correspondent Hilary Andersson back at the BBC after such a long absence. She’s one of the best investigative journalists to ever set foot on African soil. She has unfortunately NOT been invited to cover the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing next month. The reason: “She’s a dirty liar!” according to the Chinese Special Envoy for Darfur. Xhinua News Agency

Voice of America News (VOA)
Former Charles Taylor Prosecutor Praises ICC Action against Sudanese President by Joe De Capua – 07/14/08
Note: download the MP3 audio file of the interview with former Chief Prosecutor David M. Crane. Dr. Crane was the founding Chief Prosecutor for the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone and instrumental in bringing former Liberian President Charles Taylor to The Hague. More about Professor Crane can be found in this bio at Syracuse University School of Law and at the Jurist website ‘An Empty Chair at The Hague: Trying Charles Taylor’ (June 8, 2007).

That’s enough for today. I will add more to this post as the plot against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir thickens over the next days and weeks. Look for updates to this post on a regular basis.

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Kizzie said...

interesting. America was the first to call Darfur genocide and they are always imposing more sanctions on Sudan and reminding the world that Bashir is a criminal, however, CIA officials stop by Sudan every now and then to sign mutually-benefitial agreements with the Sudanese government. In fact, they are good friends with Kushayb ( the janjaweed leader), by giving the Sudanese government money and protection, they are making them even bolder. Let's get this straight, America's mission in life right now is counter-terrorism and the sudanese government knows alot about al-qaeda!

BRE said...

I agree with you Kizzie in challenging this so-called cooperation between U.S. security agencies and the Government of Sudan. For the life of me I cannot understand how the Bush administration (or regime if you will) can accuse the Sudanese government of complicity in acts of genocide and crimes against humanity and then on the other hand exclaim that this same government is an important partner in the GWOT (global war on terror).

The two things just don't go together, especially in the eyes of a majority of American citizens and citizens around the world, so something stinks in this so-called cooperative relationship between the two governments. A rotten fish of course begins to stink from the head; that's where we need to start investigating this relationship.

Thank you for your visit and your participation in the debate over at the African Loft. It is very much appreciated.