If anyone was still wondering whether Sudan’s president was a vile criminal, he just gave us more proof, said Canada’s Toronto Star in an editorial. Indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court last week, Omar al-Bashir reacted “by sacrificing the lives of even more people in Darfur.” Al-Bashir immediately expelled from the country the international relief agencies that keep alive more than 2 million people displaced by the war in Darfur. You can add that to the crimes he is charged with, which include “murdering, exterminating, raping, torturing, and forcibly transferring large numbers of civilians and pillaging their property.” It’s the first time the court has issued an arrest warrant for a sitting head of state, but in this case, the “pursuit of justice” demands no less.
Yet African leaders are “aghast at the arrest warrant,” said Kenya’s Daily Nation. They fear that “if a fellow president can be arrested and tried for brutalizing and killing his own people, then many of them, too, might not be safe.” That is a selfish and self-serving objection to an attempt at international justice, but it doesn’t mean there isn’t good cause to oppose the ICC. A more legitimate reason for African opposition to al-Bashir’s arrest would be that it is discriminatory. In its seven-year history, the ICC has issued just 12 indictments, and all of them were against Africans—five for officers in the Ugandan rebel Lord’s Resistance Army, three for Congolese rebel leaders, three for Sudanese government officials, and one for a Sudanese Janjaweed commander. “One must wonder why the ICC does not see crimes against humanity in the U.S. occupation of Iraq and indiscriminate Israeli bombing of civilian targets in Gaza.”
That’s not the point, said Gambia’s Foroyaa. Of course it would be best if international justice sought to punish every evildoer. But just because they can’t all be caught doesn’t mean al-Bashir should go free. If African leaders spent more energy telling us “what they are doing to enlarge the liberty and prosperity of their people” than they do “protesting and pointing accusing fingers” and claiming racism, maybe Africa wouldn’t be in the mess it is.
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Unfortunately, indicting African war criminals doesn’t help Africans, said Paul Moorcraft in South Africa’s Business Day. The ICC’s efforts to achieve “justice” have only succeeded in derailing peace talks across the continent. With the Congo indictments, which targeted rebel leaders who use child soldiers, “the ICC has ridden roughshod over key legal procedures, violating many of the defendants’ rights.” In Uganda, the court’s warrants against rebel leaders have “prolonged the horrific war” by making those leaders abandon peace talks. And in Sudan, the ICC’s warrants against al-Bashir and his top officials are making al-Bashir more popular than ever, thanks to a Sudanese backlash against Western meddling. They have also made the Darfur rebels less amenable to peace talks, since the rebels now believe that the West is on their side. “The ICC, for all its good intentions, may be worsening Africa’s woes.”
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