Darfur Deadlock: The Climbdown Begins

Darfur Deadlock: The Climbdown Begins

The EU’s foreign policy chief Javier Solana may be conceding defeat on Europe’s effort to win a Security Council referral for Darfur. Apparently, winning U.S. support for a referral is a lost cause, although there is still some hope that the U.S. will abstain from vetoing the referral. Still, the UK government has suggested its position on an ICC referral is negotiable, a possible signal that it is ready to back off and this has already drawn criticism from human rights groups. Indeed, UN Human Rights Commissioner Louise Arbour spent yesterday testifying to the Security Council about the need for quick action and an ICC referral.

I agree it would be extraordinary for the U.S. to veto action over this question, just as it would be extraordinary for the ICC supporters to veto a resolution sending peacekeepers just because there is no ICC referral. I just don’t think the ICC is as important here as its supporters and critics make it out to be. It would be a ridiculous tragedy if the ICC debate undercut concrete action to stop the killing in Darfur.

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Question: a UN peacekeeper mission of some 5000 troops, fully-backed with logistics and strong terms of deployment, can patrol how much of Darfur?

The only way to stop the killing is to “encourage” Sudan to stop – and that involves raising the risks that the government perceives. Those 5000 peacekeepers are unlikely to prosecute Bashir…but together with potential prosecution, and even recalcitrants like Omar al-Bashir are apt to withdraw any overt support from the janjaweed militias.

What effect will that have in Sudan? Quite possibly a substantial one. Without direct support from the Sudanese military, it’s unclear how effective the militias would be in terrorizing the Darfurians.

These things work in tandem – the threat of legal prosecution is just as important as the token number of blue helmets likely to be mustered.