Editorial: It serves no one’s purpose

Editorial: It serves no one’s purpose
Arab News – 16 July 2008
It is impossible to understand what the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) of the United Nations imagined would be achieved by indicting Sudanese President Omar Bashir on charges of genocide. As the Arab League’s envoy to Sudan, Salah Halima, pointed out forcefully yesterday, this move will have an entirely negative impact on the already chaotic situation in Darfur.

And the ramifications of the ICC’s decision will be more than political. UN peacekeepers are currently struggling alongside African Union troops in the Unamid force to stop Darfur’s murder and bloodshed. For them to have any chance of success, they need the support of the Sudanese armed forces and officials. Yet here is one part of the UN effectively making a decision that ought — on the face of it if the ICC decides to actually issue an arrest warrant for Bashir — to empower UN forces to seize a ruling head of state and take him to The Hague to answer charges against him, in the same way that UN and NATO troops have apprehended those charged with crimes from conflicts in Bosnia and Croatia.

Such an arrest of course could never happen. And no doubt UN commanders on the ground in Darfur will continue to be completely concerned with their extremely difficult peace mission. They will also now be reflecting, perhaps bitterly, on just how much more complex their task has very likely become with the ICC indictment.

This applies equally to UN humanitarian aid organizations working in Darfur. Already non-essential personnel are being evacuated. Those who support what the court has done speak loftily of justice needing to be served, regardless. But justice, however, vigorously espoused, is not some sort of tank that can be driven through political realities, especially not the daunting challenges of Darfur.

If anyone needs to be brought to account for their actions in this terrible confrontation, there will be a time and place, but that time is not now. What the ICC has done is to muddy even further already murky waters and angered the Bashir administration in Khartoum to the point at which it may now repudiate its support for UN peacekeeping intervention — of which it was always deeply suspicious. This will serve no one’s purpose except that of the men of violence on all sides in the dispute.

As a Sudanese government spokesman said in response to the court’s indictment, all wars generate crimes. He admitted that Sudanese forces had been guilty of some wrongs, which he regretted. But he questioned why Bashir should be the first serving head of state to be indicted. And indeed it seems the ICC is readier to accuse an African leader than a Western head of state, even though there are many who believe that directly or indirectly President Bush is responsible for and should answer for the brutality and mayhem he unleashed upon Iraq. But despite the fact that Washington applauded the ICC’s indictment of Bashir, the US itself refuses to recognize the court. Once again, one rule for the Americans and another for everybody else.

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