Monday, November 24, 2008

Obama, Darfur, and ICC justice

Northampton, Mass. - Of all the issues President-elect Barack Obama faces before he takes office, none is of greater moral urgency than changing the tenor of the US response to what he has repeatedly described as "genocide in Darfur."

That's because, before Inauguration Day, the International Criminal Court (ICC) is very likely to issue a warrant for the arrest of Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir, charging him with crimes against humanity and genocide in Darfur.

These charges are amply justified by the evidence. Mr. Obama's clear and effective response is needed, because the Khartoum regime has threatened aggressive violence in a calculated campaign to fend off the arrest.

Indeed, its threats are as shocking as they are underreported.

In August, the UN head of mission in Sudan declared to the Security Council: "The government has conveyed to me that the issuance of an arrest warrant against President Bashir could have serious consequences for UN staff and infrastructure in Sudan." Translation: Seek to arrest our president and we'll unleash further hell on the aid personnel who protect Darfur's vulnerable civilian populations.

Also in August, Bashir declared, "We are ready to go through war with the great power" to forestall ICC actions. Such threats against UN personnel and operations are unprecedented – and they must be fully registered by the Security Council, both for Darfur and for future peacekeeping and humanitarian operations.

As if to make clear just how high the stakes have become, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Edmond Mulet recently stressed that a warrant for Bashir could "derail the [north/south] Comprehensive Peace Agreement," which in January 2005 ended more than 20 years of catastrophic civil war.

Sudan's unambiguous threat – which also poses grave regional dangers – means the international community has no excuse not to act forcefully now. And yet, to date, Khartoum's threats stand unrebuked. The UN Secretariat has acquiesced: Despite Secretary-General Moon's tepid and abstract support for the ICC, he refuses to challenge Khartoum directly over its recent dangerous pronouncements. Read more >>>>

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