The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor officially opened proceedings today against Sudanese President Omar el Bashir by submitting an application for an arrest warrant to a panel of pre-trial judges. The application includes a nine page summary of the charges against Bashir, as well as an explanation of why the prosecutor believes the evidence shows he is responsible for genocide in Darfur. The judges will take the next few weeks to weigh the merits of the application and decide whether or not to issue the warrant for the arrest of the Sudan’s head of state.
On a conference call with reporters this morning the Enough Project’s John Norris and John Prendergast responded to these developments. They made two points I think are worth repeating ad nausea. First, concerns that this action will somehow disturb the “peace process” ignore the fact that there is no peace process of which to speak. The status quo is untenable and, they say, worth jarring; attacks on civilians persist, UNAMID is coming under attack by government sponsored militias, and humanitarian access is routinely denied or obstructed by the Sudanese government.
Second, John Prendergast noted the political utility of the ICC action, saying it offers the Security Council a unique opportunity to “build leverage for a real peace process.” By this, he means that the Security Council should hold out the potential of suspending the ICC process, if, and only if the Sudanese government enters into a good faith peace process. In other words, if members of the Security Council plays their cards right, they can use the threat of the ICC to back up a peace process that so far has proven elusive.
UPDATE: Here’s a link to the Enough Project’s full report making the case for bringing Bashir to justice.