Giving Bashir His Day in Court

Over at the Wonk Room, the Enough Project’s David Sullivan offers a nice run down of Omar al Bashir’s career low lights.

– From 2000-2001, systematically depopulated the oil fields of western Upper Nile. According to the UN: “government bombers, helicopter gunships, tanks and artillery were used against unarmed civilians to clear a 100-kilometer area around the oils fields. Witnesses reported that over 1,000 government soldiers swept through Ruweng county, wreaking human and material destruction, including destroying 17 churches.”

– Continually used aerial bombing of women and children, aid workers, and hospitals. Among the hundreds of air strikes from 2000-2001 were a World Food Program airlift, a church school, a hospital, and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

– In 2003, organized the creation of the Janjaweed militias to commit genocide in Darfur. On the Today Show, Bashir claimed: “I would confirm that we have never targeted civilian citizens and we can never target citizens.” Of Musa Hilal, the notorious Janjaweed commander, Bashir said: “He has contributed to peace and stability.” Also: “The so-called Darfur conflict is an invention by foreign interests.”

ICC prosecutions can only cover crimes committed since July 2002, so much of Bashir’s dirty work prior to then will likely never be aired inside a courtroom.

One final thought on the big news of the day after the jump.
The big question on people’s minds is whether or not the ICC’s actions will be deleterious to the prospects for peace in Darfur. To that I answer: what prospects?

The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Accord (that ended the north-south war) has pretty much collapsed. The Sudanese government never committed to peace–and just last month, open conflict broke out in the Abyei region between government proxies and southerners. In Darfur, the government has arguably abandoned any pretense of seeking a political, rather than military solution to the conflict there. True, the rebels are partly to blame–but from the very beginning, the Sudanese government has been obstructing the deployment of UNAMID and hindering humanitarian access to the region. The janjaweed attack on a UN convoy, which killed seven peacekeepers on Tuesday, is just one latest tragic example of how the government is totally uncommitted to peace.

Until now, the international community has, out of necessity, viewed Bashir as a potential partner for peace–not as the obstacle to peace that he has become. However, the Security Council wisely approved the ICC investigation in Darfur in March 2005. Now, over three years later, the prosecutor has just handed the international community a significant point of leverage over Bashir. Incidentally, this also gives the international community a ready justification for abandoning the pretense that Bashir can be a partner for peace…And if, on the off chance that Bashir sees the light, the Security Council can suspend ICC proceedings for a year a time.

One key variable is the 2009 national elections called for in the Comprehensive Peace Accord. Bashir’s ruling National Congress Party is poised to do poorly in those elections. If the international community plays this correctly, I could foresee a Serbia-like situation in which a few years from now a new government in Khartoum hands Bashir over to the ICC for their his in court.