Bashing Bashir

January 11, 2011
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The arrest and prosecution of Omar al-Bashir is a current issue that has not been addressed sufficiently by the United Nations. The following must be examined: the background of his warrant; how and why the UN is inactive on this issue; why it is so important; and how I would address it.
Al-Bashir was issued an arrest warrant on March 4th 2009 by judges Akua Kuenyehia of Ghana, Anita Usacka of Latvia, and Sylvia Steiner of Brazil. He was indicted on five counts of crimes against humanity (murder, forcible transfer, extermination, rape, and torture) and two counts of war crimes (pillaging and intentionally directing attacks against civilians). He was not prosecuted for genocide due to a lack of evidence . However, on July 12, 2010, upon the judges’ re-examination of the case, they found that there was sufficient evidence for an arrest warrant for genocide. Many major non-governmental organizations and inter-governmental organizations support these warrants, including: NATO, the Genocide Intervention Network, the ICC, and Amnesty International.

The UN is inactive on this issue, as Bashir has not yet faced trial. It has been roughly two and a half years since his initial warrant, but no progress has been made. Bashir is basically a fugitive, yet a significant portion of the international community treats him as a legitimate political figure. As more time goes on, the idea of his arrest and trial are becoming increasingly remote, therefore action needs to be taken as soon as possible.

There are major obstacles, though. First, Sudan has not ratified the Rome Statute [1998], therefore it is not obligated to comply. With the situation as it stands, the ICC cannot expect Bashir to be handed over from Sudan. Second, African neighbours such as Chad and Kenya have refused to arrest Bashir, despite having ratified the statute. He has travelled to both countries, in addition to Egypt, Eritrea, and Ethiopia (who are signatories) without problems. Third, at the Doha Summit of Arab leaders – consisting of almost every member of the Arab League – a unified conclusion was reached about the issue: "We are hopeful that no Arab president will be let down. We are going to fight until the end."

The most significant problem in arresting Bashir is that there is no international police enforcing ICC warrants. That is also why it is such an important issue. Responsibility falls to the international community for giving UN and ICC decisions teeth. Without collective enforcement from the UN and its organs, international statutes and resolutions fail. In the case of the ICC, when leaders cannot set aside their alliances, affiliations, and personal opinions, justice and the rule of law fail.
It must be noted that despite significant evidence, we must not consider Bashir guilty at the moment. Article 66(1) of the Rome Statute states the presumption of innocence to the accused. Nonetheless, it is of the utmost importance to bring Bashir to a fair trial, and it is best to do so as soon as possible while the events in question are still relevant to the Sudanese people and fresh in witness’ minds.
The importance of the immediate resolve of this issue must be emphasized, and how it pertains to justice. It would be too optimistic, though, to say that pressuring the Arab League nations and Bashir’s allies would lead to anything. It would be a better strategy to urge non-Arab League nations who are not allies of Bashir. These include: Ethiopia, Central African Republic, DR Congo, Nigeria, and others. If these nations claim that they will not offer asylum to Bashir, it will further box him in. Therefore, underscoring the previous arrests of high-ranking Janjaweed officers, while urging African nations to comply with the ICC would be my method of dealing with this issue.

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