A Disaster in the Making
While advocates and human rights groups focused on Darfur may applaud reports of Sudan’s President, Omar Bashir, being indicted by the International Criminal Court, they should think again about their enthusiasm. The question all of us must ask who care about what happens to the long suffering Sudanese people is this: what are the peaceful options for a way out of the crisis facing the country and what measures are likely to move the country closer to that way out rather than further away? Without a political settlement Sudan may go the way of Somalia, pre-genocide Rwanda, or the Democratic Republic of the Congo: a real potential for widespread atrocities and bloodshed as those in power seek to keep it at any cost because of the alternatives. An indictment of Bashir will make it much more difficult for any country or international organization to help negotiate a political settlement with the Sudanese government. Some forms of pressure may force the Sudanese government to negotiate a political settlement, some will only make their leaders more intransigent: an indictment is clearly in the later category. The regime will now avoid any compromise or anything that would weaken their already weakened position because if they are forced from office they face trials before the ICC. Free and fair elections are now much less likely, if they ever happen. They are much more likely to be rigged or if Bashir’s party looses them they will refuse to comply with the results just as Mugabe has in Zimbabwe. This indictment may well shut off the last remaining hope for a peaceful settlement for the country.
Andrew Natsios is the former U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan and former Administrator of USAID.
Mr. Natsios’s arguments are unconvincing. There is no attempt to balance the downside of an indictment with an upside. Regardless of where you think that balance might be, someone like Mr. Natsios has a responsibility to at least acknowledge the potential upsides:
1) clear signal about impunity
2) strengthen international institutions to reign in impunity (as a former high-ranking member of the Bush admin, perhaps that is his concern?)
3) provoke more moderate elements in Khartoum regime to at last oust General Bashir (a la 1985 coup of Suwar al Dahab)
4) give comfort to relatively powerless domestic legitimate civil society opposition in Sudan
5) stengthen bargaining position of SPLM and opposition parties vis a vis NCP
6) give some justice to the families and children beaten, killed and displaced by the brutal counter-insurgency
7) give General Bashir a chance to clear his name in a court of law
China ‘is fuelling war in Darfur’
I agree with Natsios that the idictments are more bad than good. there is nothing to be excited about, even for human rights advocates. there will be more violence because of such. The excitable human right lawyer ignore the very causes why states kill there own poeple.Its not because leaders are bad, its just that they are organised in such a way that violence is inevitable.
Indicting Omar Bashir Is paradoxical to finding a solution to Darfur crisis and could even unravell the CPA for south Sudan.
The security council and the African Union should block Ocampo’s mistake.
The responsibility for what happens after an indictment rests on the members of the security council and on all the countries worldwide who are capable of providing manpower and resources to the UN/AU force that would enable it to carry out its work effectively. This indictment could well have come years ago, but it has been left on hold in the hope that international efforts led by Mr. Natsios would find a way to put an end to the genocide. Instead, the U.S. government that he worked for and all the other governments involved produced nothing but excuses, empty rhetoric, and worthless half-measures. While China continues to provide Khartoum with the money and weapons used to carry out genocide, governments refused to employ the pressure that the threat of an Olympic boycott could have created. While Khartoum imposed conditions on the deployment of peacekeepers with the obvious intent of preventing those peacekeepers from being effective, the U.S. and other governments bowed. And the U.S. continues to preclude stronger pressure on the Bashir government by maintaining a friendly intelligence relationship over decade-old information.
The ongoing disaster in Darfur is the result of the cowardice and failure of Western governments, African governments, and others. Trying to blame the ICC for whatever deterioration might follow the indictments is nonsense. If they continue to stall, leaving an understaffed, ill-equipped peacekeeping force on the ground that could not even protect itself–or even worse, if they withdraw the force–and simply point fingers at the prosecutors, that would be not only failure, but complicity.
Andrew Natsois (an honest academic and politician) is like ex-president Carter
who dared to say what he really thought only after leaving office and no longer fearing the wrath of the poweful lobbies! To his credit Natsois was heckled while in office by what he called extremist advocasy groups.
He deserves respect for meeting Ocampo and trying to persuade him not to proceed along a destructive path.
What Ocampo and those behind him are after is not justice ;but the very chaos which Dr Natsois fears. Their actions are a result of dismay because the Elections Law has been adopted and because the Abyei confrontations are over . They would like to see the CPA unravel and collapse .
More disappointment awaits them .The rebels will be encouraged ; but Sudan will continue seeking peace in Darfur and moving towards pluralism and more stability .
While Mr. Natsios’s predictions may prove correct, the fact that an indictment necessarily focuses on an individual or individuals may ironically help to break the logjam in Khartoum.
Those unindicted Sudanese government officials who have carried out the regime’s policies in Darfur and, more to the point, those army officers awaiting an opportune moment to break with the regime, may well now find Field Marshal Beshir expendable. As an ex-president he, together with other ex-officials, would be easy for a successor government to blame for the atrocities; the international community’s willingness to support such a new government (however noxious) in an announced attempt to open new talks, cooperate with the peacekeepers, and so forth, would help it to solidify its position in Khartoum.
In any case, what is the alternative to an indictment? The prosecutor and the court have credibility to maintain. And the ability of Beshir (or anyone else) to stay in power should not depend on the rest of the world’s fear that he might lash out against his own people if an indictment were handed up.
I study leaders and have collected data on all leaders in 188 countries between 1875 — 2003. Fully one quarter of all leaders faced some punishment, e.g., exile, imprisonment or death, within one year after they lost office. It is clear that the fear of post-exit punishment does fundamentally affect the policy choices of leaders. In the current context, it is clear that Bashir now has no incentive to quietly go into the night. ON the other hand, other and future leaders must now take into account that they might be held to account by the ICC, which will also fundamentally affect their policy choices. In some cases, this will make such leaders more ruthless, in other cases, however, such leaders will be deterred from pursuing policies which might lead them before the ICC. On balance, I strongly suspect, the deterrent effects will outweigh the dangerous “gambling” effects, although this make take a decade or more to become visible. Current criminal leaders, think Mugabe, Than Shwe and others, will resort to every available means to prevent transitions to democracy or any form of government that might extradite them to The Hague. Future leaders, however, especially if leaders such as Bashir really are made to feel the costs of the indictment (which does not necessarily require they are put in the docket in The Hague), are likely to behave more responsible to the international standards of law and human rights.
I have heard this from a few Sudanese.
“If Bashir stepped down and allowed the formation of a transitional government, he could be granted amnesty”.
Thank you to Mr. Natsios for sharing his informed thoughts.
While the legal-political tension of the ICC’s pending indictment was to be anticipated, this whole debate sadly misses a few key points.
First, Mr. Natsios is correct to base his analysis on what happens to the long suffering Sudanese people, a concern which I share having worked in Sudan. However, the system of international criminal justice (of which the ICC is a part) is not being constructed for the Sudanese people alone. Had it been in place – and more efficient – decades ago, the Sudanese people might not now be suffering, because the perpetrators would know they were acting under the threat of prosecution. So, it is not only the Sudanese people that the indictment may help; it is all potential future victims of State-sponsored crimes. It is important to keep this in mind. The Rome Statute was not drafted to try Bashir.
Second, this is not a human rights issue. It is an international criminal law issue. When commentators and journalists understand that important distinction, the debate will become more meaningful.
Third, neither the UN Security Council nor the ICC are responsible for what is happening in Darfur. It is the Sudanese government; end of story. Critics of the UN, the ICC, the nebulous “international community”, China, and all the other usual accused should be prepared to direct some of their criticism towards the true culprit. If Khartoum had met their obligations as a representative of all the people of Sudan instead of serving their tiny, aristocratic ruling clique, most of us would never have heard of Darfur.
Thanks for reading…
I am attracted to our side of the argument looking at how leaders have ended in 188 countries, yet your claim that “Bashir now has no incentive to quietly go into the night” presumes that Bashir is ready to leave.
Before the indictments, did Bashir had any incentive of leaving power?
You are missing completely the point of what the peace agreent in Sudan ment is trying to achieve, which is not a change of regime. Regardless of the actors’ positions on regime change in Sudan, it is not the current issue on the table, nor it is the purpose of the indictments of the ICC. It may well be a consequence in the long future but your argumentation is flawed and not serious by linking these three aspects to the way leaders end up.
Also, a question I would be interested in hearing on the basis of your research, and is not where do they end up either in exile, imprisonment or death, is why, what forced them to their end?
Finally, you also miss the main point of criminal justice which is not punishment, it is actually bringing the individual accountable, if found guilty for his/her acts, allowing victims for justice, and ensuring these crimes do not happen again. And this is achieved not through the manipulation of justice for political means (be that legitimate or illegitimate), but the fulfillment and upholding of rules. If you stick to the rules, then there is certainty, the certainty that gives room for the peace negotiations to happen, for development to happen, which are all uncertain processes. Without that certainty, there is really no hope.
Deborah Ruiz Verduzco:
I am sorry you completely failed to see the forest for the trees.
5 million dead in the Congo. Fighting has been taking place even before the Darfur crisis had started in Feb/2003. But Still Darfur is the # one crisis in the World with 200 thousand dead.
Placing Darfur as a priority seems suspicious.
Would the Western world consider Darfur still a priority, if a non Muslim was the President in Khartoum, not an extremist Muslim President like Al Bashir.
Itâ€™s issued. Question is, will the international community simply issue verbal support or will it actually enforce the warrant.
I fear itâ€™s the former.
And if thatâ€™s the case, then we could be in for a ride of instability, which would suck big time.
Would love to see the bastard go down but not at the risk of watching my country descend into chaos and instability. The last thing we want is another Somalia-like scenario.
What the anti Sudan lobyist do not fully appreciate is that if there is a regieme change in Sudan it will be to the worse. The military of Sudan view President Bashir as too soft when it comes to dealing with internal insurgencies and too responsive to international pressure. Some blame the signing of the CPA with the south of the country as the start of trouble. They see it as surrender of sovreignty because it accepted two administrations and two armies in one country. Moreover it is percieved as a factor that caused the very conflict in Darfur by encouraging ethnic and territorial demands which seemed to be achievable by armed rebellion. In the unlikely event of a military coup taking place as hoped by anti Sudan bloggers, it is unlikely that a more lenient leadership will emerge. As one Save Darfur activist put it , it seems the solution is not in ousting Bashir but rather in conquering Sudan!