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Indicting Bashir for War Crimes in Darfur? - The Israeli Spanner

Posted May 14th, 2011 at 09:10 PM by Gile na Gile

Some have argued that Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the Chief Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court should be forced to halt indictment proceedings against Sudanese President al-Bashir by invoking Article 16 of the Rome Statute on the grounds that the country is at least stable and that we don't want it to turn into 'another Somalia'.

Well, I don't think there's anything particularly stable about it despite the relatively smooth passage of the recent secession vote - and it has already proven worse than Somalia. I mean how many independently commissioned reports and fact-finding missions are required to mobilise the international community into action? Yes, intervention is necessary and the threat of a Chinese veto is not an insuperable obstacle; they did after all abstain along with the US on the vital Security Council Resolution 1593 that gave the ICC the original mandate to pursue their investigations. Sudan's allies in the Arab League, OPEC and the Organisation of Islamic's Conference can be brought onside by a reinvigorated commitment to a two-state solution for Palestine - a return to the 1967 borders. There is no point any more in pretending that these two issues aren't inextricably linked.

Now to the supposedly stable situation on the ground. We have a stalled peace process which has managed at least to produce a workable blueprint document - the 2006 Darfur Peace Agreement - but there are at least a dozen rebel groups; mainly splinter factions from the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) who have refused to endorse it. This should not come as a surprise given that Bashir's National Islamic Front have already proven themselves poor parties by backtracking on commitments given in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed with the South in 2005.

This treaty, which ended the 21yr civil war with the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) provided for an equitable allocation of oil revenues along with the aforementioned referendum on secession recently held earlier this year (2011). It is in reality a peace even more fragile than the non-existent one with the rebel factions in Darfur. Smugglers in the region openly confess to being in for a quick kill; once the referendum on secession is put to the vote "poof", they said, 'they will go back to war'. Well, this hasn't quite happened yet but it has to be remembered that the North and South have only once stopped fighting since Sudanese Independence in 1956 - a brief eight year period between 1974 and 1983. The second civil war began as Chevron discovered oil in the South and the Arab North duly antagonised a rebellion by making Sharia law compulsory for the southern Christians and animists.

Even within the context of the limited value of the DPA which has now produced a more representative transitional authority under Milla Minawi's SLA, the government in Khartoum has yet to withdraw funding and support for the Janjaweed militia and to provide the compensation stipulated in the agreement for the dispossessed Darfur populations. Much of the Janjaweed itself has now reportedly fractured and is turning its guns on one another, the Khartoum government, rebel groups in Chad and members of the hybrid AU/UN peacekeeping mission (UNAMID). According to some observers, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement reached between Khartoum and the mainly Christian SPLA in the South will be further jeopardised if the DPA is eventually agreed upon. The SPLA say that a revision of this will be a disaster since its settlements in the CPA refer to the entire region of Sudan; a situation they say will have to be reversed if the referendum on autonomy for the three regions of Darfur, as agreed in the DPA, goes ahead as projected. The SPLA have fought hard for representation in Khartoum and seem to be viewing the peace talks as a threat to their interests - but this shouldn't be the case given the natural alliances, on material grounds alone, between themselves and the Darfur rebel coalition.

There is also the further potentially destabilising factor of the involvement of Sudan's neighbours. The Eritrean and Chad governments have been reportedly funding the rebel groups in Darfur and through the Eastern Front rebel alliance while Sudan itself has been funding rebel groups in Chad. There are additionally reports of the Lords Resistance Army raiding village settlements in southern Sudan, an action which has seen the SPLA authorities there arming civilians and villagers; further compromising internal security.

A member of the JEM who was in peace talks in Tripoli recently gave me a copy of the famous Black Book which was distributed in mosques back in 2000. Much of the resentment among the black Muslims arrives from their exclusion from major administrative posts - whilst this is a fact and is well documented in the Black Book - there is a popular notion that it has been done so on the grounds that their Islamism isn't 'as pure' as that practised by the northern Sudanese in the Arab belt - a dangerous half-truth that could further ethnicise the conflict.

Before his present difficulties the consolidation of Arab power in the north was actively pursued by Ghadafi back in the 80's and he has been consistently vocal in support of a policy of non-intervention - however, whatever credibility he once had on this issue has since been blown to the proverbial four corners. Now, the Arab League have always viewed the Sudanese government as one of the principal vanguards of the Islamic Resurgence (to use Huntingdon's phrase) - and see nothing but double standards in the ICC on account of their inaction over Palestine. The fact that the Chinese have provided military and technical support in exchange for crude is tempered by the observation that the US has had oil companies in the south for decades. Though President Clinton imposed sanctions on Sudan in 1997 and declared them a state that 'supports terrorism' the Heuston-based Marathon Oil have only recently (2008) sold their stake in the Abyei southern block - to France's Total. Having said this, the US are the only members of the Security Council not vacillating over an Article 16 suspension and therefore are the best chance for seeing objective justice being performed on behalf of the people of Darfur - were it not of course for their continued unquestioning support of Israel.

In brief then, there is nothing inherently stable about any of this. Ocampo should be allowed proceed with his renewed brief as of the July 2010 ICC ruling that evidence for war crimes does in fact exist and as Chief Prosecutor should be given the power to over-ride an attempted suspension of the issue of an arrest warrant. The ICC must surely be allowed and be seen to be an autonomous body capable of independent action, otherwise what's its point. Besides which, the further the indictment is pushed the more leverage can be put on Khartoum to honour its commitments in the DPA; withdrawal of forces and compensation. Both the terms of the DPA and CPA should be revisited with suitable international moderation with a view to synchronising their respective referenda on secession.

This should be enough to tempt the rebel splinter groups back into the process; those that don't should be outlawed - at the end of the day they are being offered an autonomous government and a new constitution. Their security concerns can be addressed by a beefed up AU and UN mission. But none of this can be achieved without the co-operation of the Arab League (whose texture is rapidly changing for the better even as we speak), which is why, as always, we are drawn back to the Israeli/Palestine conflict.

Perhaps Ocampo's next brief will be the Israeli war cabinet of Olmert, Livni and Barak whose decision to invade Gaza was directly responsible for the deaths of over a thousand Palestinians in Operation Cast Lead? Well, don't bank on it - and as long as the West maintains it's double standards over Israeli breaches of human rights and international law no objective justice, it seems, will ever be served on behalf of the people of Darfur.
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