Momentous news from The International Criminal Court today. For the first time a sitting head of state has been issued with an international arrest warrant. But how long it will take before the President of Sudan is arrested is quite another matter.
Heavy charges have been laid at the President Omar al-Bashir’s door.
Darfur has been blighted by a war that’s lasted for nearly six years. During that time more than 300,000 people have been killed, nearly two and a half million people have been forced from their homes and thousands of women and girls have been raped.
And today the ICC has ruled that the Sudanese President should be charged and prosecuted for some of these crimes against humanity.
Already there’s great debate around the implications of this warrant. The Libyan minister was suggesting yesterday that the African Union will withdraw from the ICC should the Court go ahead with the warrant.
Some have argued that the arrest warrant hanging over Sudan’s President will threaten the north-south peace process, while others suggest that it will discredit the recent pact between al-Bashir and the leader of JEM (Justice Equality Movement).
And according to the BBC’s Amber Henshaw, rumours of a coup have been whispering around Khartoum.
So there are real fears that this arrest warrant could destabilise the country.
Perhaps. But then again – just how stable was Sudan in the first place? War in Darfur has not abated even though news of it may have disappeared from our front pages. And there are ongoing tensions in South Sudan as well.
And more than that, does that mean justice should not apply to country leaders?
That surely can’t be so. No one is above the law. In the case of crimes against humanity and war crimes, perpetrators have to be brought to justice. It doesn’t matter whether one is the President of Sudan or an office worker in Nyala – the same rule of law has to be applied to all.
That’s why Amnesty has today urged that no country provides a safe haven for the Sudanese President. We would of course prefer that President al-Bashir surrenders himself to the ICC. But I think I’ve been around long enough to know that that’s not exactly going to happen. Not any time soon anyway.
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