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Comment Sudan

Sudan's future with the ICC By Abeer Awooda, a journalist from Sudan

Since 2003 when reports started leaking about the genocide in Darfur, the subject of Sudan became more central for the major players on the world stage.

These revelations shook the world’s conscience into addressing the horror of what is being perpetrated there. Mindful of the events in 1994 in Rwanda, the international community should refuse to accept another such massacre and further violations of international law. The values of civilised people, promoted and embraced by the many concerned organisations lobbying on these issues, and the humanity of the Darfuri people is capturing the attention of the world. At a time when obstacles to the Peace Agreement are highlighting its weaknesses and lack of momentum, this focus is vital to prevent disaster for Darfur.

Remarkable developments, in the form of the charges against the Sudanese president for crimes against humanity, holding him accountable for his violations of international law, and the subsequent 2008 and 2010 indictments by the International Court have been met with obstruction and denial by the Khartoum regime. Current challenges include the conflicts occurring within the ruling party and the need to maintain pressure to force the president to face the charges of the ICC.

Powers within the ruling party do not conceal their hostility to one another.  It is said that Vice President Ali Osman would seek to take advantage of the power vacuum created, should President al-Bashir be unable to retain his activities of state. His continued presence in power would preserve the internal balance of the party, while keeping the International Criminal Court at bay and safeguarding Khartoum’s reluctance to enter any real negotiations on these issues. Certainly the president has not overlooked this point and has pushed dissenting aides closer to the vice president on sensitive issues like Darfur and following up the Peace Agreement. 

News is leaked from time to time about a deal on dropping the charges against the president in exchange for concessions in relation to Darfur, Abyei, terrorism and the Peace Agreement. Officially, however, this is denied in Washington, Paris and London, where it is stated that there will never be any bargaining on the subject of the International Court’s charges. This does not prevent negotiators from raising the subject whenever the opportunity arises.

There is an interest under international Law for the president to appear before the court, but the Security Council, under the Charter of Rome, has postponed any decision to arrest him for a year.  This decision has specifically raised the appetite of many countries to pressure Khartoum but Khartoum thinks it can negotiate indefinitely for the “innocence of the president”, clearly a sign that it wants an elite to pay the price politically. Once the international community accepts the principle of bargaining this will turn the subject of justice into one loosely bound by the determinants of political wrangling and fall short of the provisions intended by the founders of the Charter of international justice which was intended to constrain the excessive use of violence by the institution of the state.

There is no doubt that state-perpetrated violence in Darfur has led millions to be displaced or killed.  This has been proved through government reports and even committees mandated by the government itself.  However, the state is failing to hold accountable those who have committed these atrocities.  Because of the inadequacy of the local judiciary to play its role, we have been forced to turn to the international community to provide justice.  We all remember 2 years ago when the Attorney-General tried to hold the Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, Ahmad Haroun accountable  with the result being that he was excluded from the cabinet.

In August last year an open dialogue was welcomed in the court in Kampala, Uganda, proving the importance of international justice and any developments cannot be imagined without a trial of the President.

For the sake of its credibility, international law must not allow the President to be exempt from political actions.  The National Congress Party must respond to the pressure for justice even if this results in a split.  This will be the only way that we can move forward.