by M.A. Shaikh (Special Reports, Crescent International Vol. 39, No. 5, Rajab, 1431)
Interestingly, the judges had refused to indict Bashir for alleged genocide, ignoring the application by ICC prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, filed last year.
On July 12, the International Criminal Court charged the Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir with three counts of genocide related to the war in Darfur. The latest arrest warrant added to earlier charges (made last year) of war crimes and crimes against humanity, saying there were “reasonable grounds to believe” Sudanese forces had attempted to eradicate the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa tribes in Darfur. He is accused of keeping 2.5 million people in refugee camps “in genocide conditions”.
Interestingly, the judges had refused to indict Bashir for alleged genocide, ignoring the application by ICC prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, filed last year. But they have now endorsed his new application, despite strong criticism of the prosecutor’s methods of pursuing those accused, irrespective of whether they have committed any crime. In fact, there is widespread impression that both the judges and the prosecutor take note of the fact that the West and the United Nations are determined to eliminate President Bashir and his Islamic party and split up his country into North and South Sudan.
That the ICC judges are not hostile to all those charged as they are to Bashir is indicated by their recent decision to order the release of Thomas Lubanga, the former Congolese warlord. They ordered his release on July 15 after the prosecutor failed to comply with a ruling to identify an informant. But Lubanga, accused of employing children under 15 in fighting during the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo between 1998 and 2003, is not that important to western countries and the UN and his release will not embarrass the ICC.
In fact, both the West and the UN and, indeed the ICC, are pleased to see the release order as it is more likely to give the false impression that the judges are free from external influence. Yet, they do not appear to care if such a damaging impression is created in Bashir’s case. After all, this suits their international campaign to portray Islam as too extreme and Islamic leaders as terrorists.
This explains why the judges are not critical of the prosecutor’s hostile attitude to Bashir, although it has been publicly condemned by some critics who have accused him of “going after high-profile targets” (including President Bashir), “but failing to secure any convictions.” In fact, the prosecutor has been so extreme in targeting Bashir that he has taken his case into the international press, turning the court’s proceedings into a political campaign.
Moreno-Ocampo published a long article in the Guardian (London) on July 16, exploiting the court’s proceedings to ruin the president’s reputation and call on the UN Security Council and all the states to order, and carry out, his arrest. The headline said: “Now end this Darfur denial” and the sub-title added: “We have laid charges for genocide and the UN must seize the moment to act for the victims of Sudan.” But the article was not merely about explaining the ICC’s proceedings and, instead, went deep into Sudan’s internal politics, exaggerating Bashir’s “misdeeds” in Darfur to an extent unmatched even by Darfur. More disgracefully, the prosecutor brought the highly volatile issue of South Sudan into his campaign, claiming that Bashir “is also laying the groundwork for new crimes against Darfur and against the South of Sudan.”
There is hardly any doubt that intervention of the ICC and its prosecutor in the political issues of Sudan will have disastrous effects on the relationship between North and South Sudan. After all, the recent war between the two regions that claimed two million lives, and the current failure to reach agreement over their borders constitute a continuing threat to the lives of all the Sudanese people. Only two days before the publication of the prosecutor’s article in the Guardian, an international coalition warned that the civil war could be re-invoked unless agreements over oil and borders were reached before the independence referendum in five months’ time.
In its widely respected report issued on July 14, the international coalition was right to issue the warning but failed to refer to and condemn the international community’s involvement in Sudanese affairs, particularly the roles of the West, ICC and the UN. That role, which concentrates on chasing Bashir and Islamic activists, is bound to set north and south Sudanese against each other and to help revive the civil war. It will certainly encourage the South Sudanese to vote for secession.
The fact that the people of Sudan are now strongly divided along religious lines will also invoke widespread hostility as a result of the international pursuit of the “Islamist President” and his party. Islam is the state religion. In 2001, 78% of the population were Muslims concentrated in the north, while Christians were 17% and animists 12%. Both Christians and animists are concentrated in the south and will cast the majority votes when the referendum is held. A break-up of the country into north and south will not only affect the relationship between Muslims and Christians but it will set animists against Christians as they will compete for power against each other.
Even worse, the West’s plan to break up Sudan and pursue Bashir has already created serious regional confrontation. The West, backed by the UN, is not only determined to divide Sudan into north and south but it also wants to see the latter allied to Christian countries in the region such as Ethiopia and Kenya. West African countries also came under pressure to join the campaign against President Bashir and his regime. He is the first sitting president to have an ICC arrest warrant issued against him, and member states of the international criminal court are required to arrest him if he dares to enter them.
But there have been interesting developments recently. Bashir who defies the ICC, flew to Ndjamena, the capital of neighbouring Chad, on July 21 even though it is a member state of the ICC. The court has no police force of its own and relies on its members to arrest those who are under an arrest warrant. But Chadian President Idriss Deby went to the airport to greet his one-time enemy. And Chad’s Interior Minister, Ahmed Mohamed Bachir, categorically announced: “Bashir will not be arrested in Chad”, adding that he “will return home safe and sound.” On July 25, President Bashir was in Kampala for the African Union Summit where the assembled heads denounced the ICC’s arrest warrant against him.
These developments are welcome and should be viewed and copied by other Muslims countries whether neighbouring Sudan or not. Certainly, those countries should help Chad and Sudan to rid themselves of their past warring relations and convert their current attempt to build friendly relations into permanent peaceful ties.