ICC Issues Arrest Warrant for Bashir


The International Criminal Court just issued an arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The ICC’s first indictment of a sitting head of state is likely to be a game changer, both globally and in Sudan. Globally, the ICC has served notice that the days of impunity from the world’s most heinous crimes are coming to an end. For Sudan, the indictment should ratchet up international pressure on Khartoum as well as weaken Bashir domestically.
The ICC is fulfilling the promise of its constituent document, the Rome Statute. It has not been politicized or used as an instrument of state power, as some had feared. It has not overstepped its bounds or mandate. By all accounts, it’s doing exactly what it was intended to do.
The reservations that some folks have about the indictment are well-intentioned, but ultimately off base. Khartoum has threatened retaliation against Darfuris, UN peacekeepers and other “ICC supporters.” Much of that can be prevented, though, by a strong response from the U.S. and others, especially on the Security Council. To this point, the Obama Administration has made all the right noises: quietly but unhesitatingly supporting the investigation and refusing to consider a 12-month deferral resolution in the Security Council. If Khartoum does incite violence in response to the indictments, the U.S. should clearly put the responsibility on the government and move quickly in the Security Council to expand targeted sanctions against individuals in the regime.
Franklin Graham, who has been deeply involved in peace work in Darfur, penned an op-ed in the NY Times yesterday opposing the indictment. Here’s where his argument goes off the rails:

For all his faults, Mr. Bashir has demonstrated that he is able to cooperate. On several occasions he has complied with my requests. When a hospital we operated in eastern Sudan was seized by government forces, Mr. Bashir granted us limited access. Mr. Bashir also made television time available for us to broadcast a Christian program at Christmas and Easter.

I doubt there is a single Head of State on the planet that can’t be “worked with,” at some level. That should be a clear lesson from the failings of the Bush Administration. First, implementing a peace deal and respecting human rights are a far cry from allowing access to a hospital Bashir took over (how reasonable!). But the question must not be whether Bashir is capable of dealing, or even of pragmatism. The question is whether or not the status quo is likely to produce a lasting peace. As Rev. Desmond Tutu points out in the same issue of the Times, the answer is a clear “no.”
In the medium- and long-term, the indictment will erode Bashir’s broad but thin support in the African Union. and the 105 State Parties to the ICC’s Rome Statute will be legally obligated to hand him over to the Court if he enters their respective jurisdiction, which will serve to severely isolate the Sudanese President. Now it’s up to the international community to understand how the game has changed and to play accordingly.
— Scott Paul
Update: For a different point of view from someone who understands ICC proceedings more clearly than I do, see Kevin Jon Heller’s post at Opinio Juris. While I agree it’s a huge disappointment that genocide charges weren’t included, I don’t see how the omission will lead to the political problems he suggests. The UN commission of inquiry’s failure to make a case for genocide four years ago didn’t cause the world to lose interest in Darfur and I doubt the Pre-Trial Chamber’s decision to omit genocide charges will either.


13 comments on “ICC Issues Arrest Warrant for Bashir

  1. Nigussie says:

    Viva ICC!! It has now become clear that all hopelesses are at the verge of looming hope. Now we can confidently say that, at least; if not at all keep in mind that wrongdoers face justice and be accountable for the crime they commit againist their people. Time of recklessness and greed seems to pass. The warrat againist Bashir marks this. Please go on inspecting the accout of others and levy their taxes.
    Viva ICC!!


  2. rico says:

    Bashir must be arrested to put a stop to the crimes in Darfur. More on this at the link below: http://www.ricoexplainsitall.com/politcs-economy/2009/3/6/bashir-responds-to-icc-arrest-warrant.html


  3. Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi says:

    The Heller’s doctrine of situational gravity- which endorses the indictment of Sudan’s President Al Bashir- may yet be under question inso far as the doctrine of international customary law regarding the human rights, to some extent seems to have been incongruous with the true dynamics of internatonal justice.


  4. hannahh kelly says:

    This the first step taken by ICC to bring people into justice irrespective of their political stature, will the ICC try and bring in this justice irrespective of the power of the nation and its ruler is still remaining to be answered. Take your stance on the issue at


  5. Dave Newman says:

    I’m sorry to dissent here, but in my book this
    ruling by the ICC will only accelerate the process
    of polarizing the world even further. As long as
    we indict “criminals” like Bashir and let others
    just as guilty, or even more so, like Bush,
    Cheney, Barak, Peres, and the list goes on, get
    away their heinous deeds – we’re not being just
    or constructive, we’re just being plain
    Oh, now I remember, of course we can’t get to most
    of the above mentioned culprits – they don’t
    consider the ICC a legit authority… Does Bashir?


  6. Bill R. says:

    Bashir retaliates by expelling 10 aid organizations including Physicians Without Borders. The peace talks with Darfur insurgents may now go down the tube too. Looks to me that things are escalating there. Is the humanitarian situation going to explode too?


  7. TonyForesta says:

    Great! Are bush and cheney on the docket?


  8. JohnH says:

    A good primer on Sudan:
    And–surprise, surprise–guess what is provoking the conflict? Yes, my friends, it is THAT vital strategic interest which TWN and the rest of the foreign policy establishment refuse to name. (You’d think they were talking about Yaweh!, not some crude substance.)
    In Sudan, “ethnic and religious differences are important, as they are in any civil war, but it is oil that provokes much of the violence.”
    Could we please have an honest and open debate about vital strategic interests instead of all the phony “casus belli” who pass for enlightened discussion in Washington?


  9. Don Kraus says:

    This warrant is an example of actions that the Court was specifically created to take, in order to hold the world’s worst criminals accountable for their actions. It proves that no one, including a head of state, is above the law.
    The US should immediately provide all assistance to the Court in apprehending President Al-Bashir, by taking him into custody if he enters our airspace, waters or territory; by freezing all economic and/or military aid to the Sudanese government until Sudan complies with this warrant; by using diplomacy to pressure President Al-Bashir to comply with the ICC demands; and contributing our enormous resources to this investigation to ensure that justice is served.
    However, before the U.S. can credibly pressures other nations to hand Al-Bashir over to the Court, it needs to do 3 things: reinstate its signature on the ICC treaty; take a seat as an observer at the Court’s governing body; and
    formally begin to cooperate with other investigations the Court is conducting in the DRC, Uganda, and eslewhere.
    We need to take these steps not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it will be difficult for other nations to take us seriously when we urge them to abide by the Court’s rulings.


  10. Hiroshi Burnette says:

    By the way, Sudan is the one country where our Boy Scouts can capture, hold, secure, and re-build with little effort. Remember, the Lost Patrol from Chad almost took over Khartoum last year.
    The thing I fear most is the subsequent corporate slicing of the pie, the natural resources ripoff, and environmental and human rights violations that the West is going to impose (to make a quick buck), after we help get rid of the current regime. Sudan could be (woulda coulda shoulda) an eco-tourism hot spot. (In a subtle way, the displaced natives can be taught that animals, water, and trees are not simply used for cooking.)
    We really have to handle this with (corporate) restraint (i.e. govt restrictions on US and Chinese multinationals), else we run the risk of yet again galvanizing the whole damned world against big bad imperialist America… a formula for the next 911.


  11. Hiroshi Burnette says:

    Bashir is just the beginning. What about Mugabe? And even more important, what about Dick Cheney?
    Paraphrasing Vice President Cheney’s own words: “If there’s a 1% chance that (Cheney’s) defense contractors are war profiteers, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response. It’s not about our analysis … It’s about our response.”
    Please help send Dick Cheney to Guantanamo and interrogate him hard. Never mind due process. Our nation’s security is at stake.


  12. Brigid says:

    This is good news! Accountability for mass murder and crimes against humanity! What a concept!


  13. JohnH says:

    “The ICC is fulfilling the promise of its constituent document, the Rome Statute. It has not been politicized or used as an instrument of state power, as some had feared. It has not overstepped its bounds or mandate. By all accounts, it’s doing exactly what it was intended to do.”
    Except for ignoring war criminals from big, powerful countries and meting out “justice” only to those in small, powerless countries…


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