Djbouti Violates its Obligations to the ICC

Over the weekend, Sudanese President Omar al Bashir attended the inauguration of Djbouti president Ismail Omar Guelleh. The problem here is that Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court and Djbouti is a member of the International Criminal Court. In theory, Djbouti is obliged by treaty to make an effort to arrest Bashir. Instead, Djbouti rolled out the red carpet, making it the third ICC member state to let Bashir freely walk its soil.  Last year Kenya and Chad invited Bashir attend ceremonies in their country.

This is deeply problematic for the ICC. The court has no executive power of its own; It has no police to arrest suspects, only its member states can do that. Further, it has no way to punish or coerce its members into fulfilling their obligations to the court. It relies on the cooperation of its member states, and when that cooperation is not forthcoming, the ICC is basically impotent.

That’s why these violations should be taken very seriously.  If member states mean what they say about ending impunity for war crimes, they have to make a real effort to shrink the geographical space where accused war crimes suspects can roam.

The one recourse for the court in this instance is the Security Council.  Because the Bashir case was referred to the ICC by the Security Council, I would imagine that the office of the prosecutor will lodge a complaint with the Council.  (He is, after all, working off of their orders.)  The thing is, last time he lodged such a complaint (against Kenya) nothing came of it so I don’t imagine that Djbouti will face too much international condemnation.

Get occasional updates from UN Dispatch

* indicates required

Our free service for global affairs professionals

  • Want to learn more?