First of all, I think that the International Criminal Court arrest warrant out for the Sudanese president, Omar al Bashir, is one that’s based on shaky legal grounds. Whether the Court even has a right to issue such a warrant is confusing.
The Rome Statue, which gives the ICC its legality, is not clear cut on certain issues. For example, it explicitly makes it impossible for the ICC to prosecute an individual whose nation isn’t a signatory to the Rome Statute, because it doesn’t have jurisdiction.
That should be the end of the debate. Since Sudan isn’t a signatory of the Rome Statute, Omar Bashir should have been sitting pretty in his presidential palace. However, there is a small sting in the tail.
The ICC is allowed to investigate any matter which is referred to it by the United Nations Security Council- even though the matter being forwarded pertains to an action made by an individual, who’s a national of a nation that isn’t a signatory of the Rome Statute.
Well, Bashir is being taken through the wringer because, in 2005, the Security Council did refer the Darfur mess to the ICC Prosecutor; and, as the judges in The Hague decided, when giving the ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo permission to issue the warrant, Sudanese nationals, including its sitting president, could be dragged before the court.
Without getting into the differing legal arguments[many lawyers, I included, think that the ICC is in violation of the spirit of the Rome Statute and the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties of 1969], I’d like to talk about the larger issue of international justice and plain old morality.
The international justice system is, without a doubt, extremely controversial. Especially in these times when international jurisdiction is being used to undermine nation’s sovereignty, as Louis Bruguière did with his infamous indictment of Rwanda’s national leadership.
Certainly, I believe that there is a slight tinge of racism and the ‘mighty’ lording it over the ‘minnows’. I mean, if the Guantanamo prisoner phase of the United States ‘War On Terror’ and the Israeli blockade and bombing of Gaza aren’t crimes against humanity and war crimes I don’t know what is.
So, when poor nations [the ones who’ve borne the brunt of the international justice system are African states] feel as if there is blatant hypocrisy at play, they have a point.
However, should international justice be thrown to the scrapheap of history?
I think not. You see, while various African leaders go on about the fact that the ICC indictment is, as al Bashir said yesterday, “a conspiracy aimed at destabilizing the country”. But while he, and many Pan-Africanists, go on and on about the neo-colonialism, they forget one undisputable fact.
They forget, quite conveniently I believe, there were acts of barbarism perpetrated by the Sudanese army against the peoples of Darfur.
Should we, as an international community, turn our backs to the cries of the poor unfortunates, who are being treated abominably by their leaders, because there have been a few abuses of the entire international justice system? I think not.
The system certainly has its faults …but at its very best, it is the one weapon that can protect citizens from a bloodthirsty despot.
Sure, a potential arrest warrant might not deter another Idi Amin; however, at least the same potential Idi Amin wouldn’t die peacefully in his sleep, surrounded by his wives and children, in a comfortable exile in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
He’d have to hang on to power by all means possible, indefinitely while not being able to move a step beyond his border. Sure at present the whole international justice system is being rightly challenged by various parties.
However, we shouldn’t be quick to throw the baby out along with the bathwater. Let’s look at reforming the international justice system, not turning our backs on it because, though it might seem corrupt and unfair, there is still no alternative to it.