Column Lynch and Nora Boustany have the blockbuster scoop that the ICC prosecutor plans to charge the President of Sudan Omar al Bahsir with genocide. This is the first time the ICC prosecutor has brought up charges of gencoide and the first time he has targeted a head of state.
Let me echo Kevin Jon Heller: To say this is a bold move — and one fraught with danger — is an understatement. There is serious concern that this accusation might undercut an already fragile peace process and make peacekeepers the target of government reprisal. In fact, the deadly attack on UNAMID this week may be considered something of a pre-reprisal; UN officials believe the Sudanese government was behind the ambush that killed seven peacekeepers on Tuesday
The attack on UNAMID was just one indication that the peace process has been dead for a long time now in large part due to Sudanese intransigence. This is the right time to ratchet up the pressure.
“Bashir will certainly use the indictment to justify some awful reactions, such as humanitarian aid restrictions and further barriers” to the joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur, said John Prendergast, co-chairman of the Enough Project, an initiative to end crimes against humanity. “But if the international community stands firm and makes it clear that these kinds of responses will only make matters worse for Bashir…then he will relent.”
ICC advocates contend that such court actions contribute to peace efforts. Previous indictments of world leaders — such as former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic and former Liberian president Charles Taylor — by other U.N. tribunals have ultimately contributed to stability in those countries, said Richard Dicker, director of the international justice office at Human Rights Watch.
The prosecutor is not technically “indicting” Bashir. Rather, on Monday, he will present his evidence to a pre-trial panel of international judges who will ultimately decide whether or not the evidence merits an indictment. Still, this is big, big news. We will follow it closely.