A Sudanese Turnaround on the ICC?

For a government that has been so consistently obdurate — and so unreservedly vocal — in its refusal to comply with ICC indictments of two of its nationals, any openness toward the Court’s work in Sudan understandably comes as a surprise:

The Sudanese government considered turning over two suspects accused of war crimes in Darfur to the International Criminal Court (ICC), a senior Sudanese official told Sudan Tribune today.

The official who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter said that the leadership of the National Congress Party (NCP) “is getting very nervous over the upcoming announcement by the ICC of new suspects”.

According to the official, [NCP foreign minister Ali] Karti made a presentation to the NCP leadership in which he outlined the “difficult position” the government will be in if senior officials are charged by the world court of war crimes.

Karti recommended that Haroun and Kushayb being extradited to the Hague “as a protection from further indictments” the official said.


Just three days ago, President Bashir issued this stern rebuke to the prospects of working with the ICC: “I swear to god, I swear to god, I swear to god we will not hand over any Sudanese to the International Court.” Previously, Sudan’s ambassador to the UN responded to the ICC indictments of his countrymen by asserting that the ICC Chief Prosecutor should himself “be tried in court.”

Such aggressive bluster aside, though, the internal machinations of Sudan’s ruling cabal seem to indicate that President Bashir and others may be moving toward the more “moderate” camp of Sudanese politicians. If this report is accurate, then it will represent a strong vindication of the Chief Prosecutor’s strategy.

Some commentators and analysts have criticized the Chief Prosecutor’s suggestion that “the entire state apparatus” of Sudan is guilty of war crimes, arguing that his threat to target government officials higher up the food chain may only increase the regime’s stubbornness and impede peace-making and humanitarian efforts. The purpose of making such ambitious proclamations, though, should be analyzed not just as a resolutely ideological pursuit for justice — which is of course a worthwhile goal — but also as practical attempts to secure compliance on the no-less-worthy “smaller fish” that the Court is pursuing. If Sudanese leaders feel that giving up the already-indicted suspects will spare them from prosecution, then they will be more likely to comply with the ICC, and, hopefully, to decrease their obstruction of peacekeeping and humanitarian efforts.

The Sudanese government can deny cooperation with the ICC as fervently as it wants, but if this meeting within Sudan’s inner ruling circle is any indication, then this prong of the ICC’s strategy seems to be working.

(Photo credit: Antony Njuguna/Reuters)