The ICC Seeks Regime Change in Sudan

by Julian Ku

I appreciate Kevin’s thoughtful and evenhanded assessment of the ICC Prosecutor’s complex decision to seek the arrest of Sudan’s president.  There are indeed good arguments both for and against the ICC Prosecutor’s move.

I’m torn myself.  I have articulated many times before my skepticism of the ICC’s effectiveness in helping to end the violence or even to bring justice for Darfur. I stand by my view that the ICC referral is basically the Security Council’s effort to deflect further action, and the fact that the ICC investigation cannot in any way help the peace process (at least in the short term).  But I can understand the argument Kevin cites below from "Enough": How could things get any worse?

Still, by indicting a sitting Head of State, the ICC is essentially seeking regime change.  There will be no peace in Darfur, it is saying, unless Bashir is out of office, and turned over the ICC custody.  Perhaps this is true. I am sympathetic to arguments that no negotiated settlement is possible.  But think about what is at stake here.  The ICC is now saying that there can be no peace deal in Darfur without Bashir’s (metaphorical) head.  This means we are going to need a bit more than a random peacekeeping force to end this war.  Unless the ICC knows something we don’t about the willingness of the Security Council to go get Bashir’s head e.g. unless the French Foreign Legion or the U.S. Marine Corps are ready to go into Sudan to arrest Bashir, I cannot see how this action by the Prosecutor can help the cause of peace in Darfur.

8 Responses

  1. Julian, how can there be peace if Sudan is headed by a mass-murderer? What’s wrong with replacing a regime that encourages genocide *actively*? Perhaps you’re deterred by what happened in Iraq, but I don’t think the two cases are close enough.

    The question of enforcement is a seperate one. Enforcement would be the final step in signaling to Sudan that what it does in Darfur is unacceptable. But doubting the execution of the final phase does not mean that earlier phases – condemnation by fellow states and the decision to prosecute – are mistaken or have no value.
    True, it would hurt the international community’s credibility if Bashir is prosecuted but never arrested. However, we’re not there yet.

  2. Kevin wrote earlier that the ICC is not the SC’s plaything. It certainly shouldn’t be, but I think what the SC now does will largely determine whether the ICC – in its first real battle of political will – is seen as a mantle conversation piece or a genuine tool for fighting impunity. If the SC fails to leverage Bashir’s indictment to beneficial effect, the ICC stands to lose any street credibility.

    On some level, the message sent by the arguments against the indictment is rather perverse: the greater the atrocity, the greater the chance that nothing truly punitive will be directed at the top level perpetrators, all for the sake of not exacerbating the atrocity. The lesson to would-be genocidaire’s? Think big.

    Which is not to say that I can’t sympathise with the people on the ground whose actual lives (rather than just political images) are at stake. Being sacrificed for other peoples causes is devastating no matter how noble or utilitarian the cause.

  3. Julian does not see how the move by the ICC prosecutor will help the cause of peace in Darfur. It does not. There is no peace initiative or inclination to peacefully resolve the crisis in Darfur by the Bashir regime. The charges that Al Bashir is facing range from genocide to crimes against humanity because he is complicit in trying to eradicate the Fur and the Zaghawa people of Sudan. For five years, trying to convince Al Bashir to negotiate a peaceful settlement in Darfur has failed mainly because Bashir does not intend to negotiate a settlement. He intends to wipe away these ethnic groups. International action is necessary. Although the effectiveness of the prosecutor’s action is contingent on the Security Council’s resolution, seeking Al Bashir’s indictment serves a legal as well as political purpose. The prosecutor is legally competent to take the action he took and it serves a useful precedent and maybe sends a message to some of the world’s notorious leaders. Politically it puts Darfur back on the headlines and forces the Security Council to discuss it. The prosecutor took a very bold and necessary step.

  4. I agree with you Julian.

    The ICC is seeking a regime change in Sudan and the removal of president Bashir. I do notthink that the ICC is really out thereto bring justice to the victims of Darfur who have the right to see justice prevail and the right to come back to their homes. But the campaign against Bashier and Sudan has little to do with Darfur which, in my opinion serves as a convenient Trojan Horse in order to punish Sudan and eventually break it up into smaller permanently fighting each other mini-countries.
    Please see my article on this issues in today’s Philadelphia inquirer.

  5. I do not think regime change is the explanation.

    Check the following website in 2-3 weeks.

  6. Please remember that the first news on the application for arrest warrant appeared 11 July 2008.

  7. Check out the story “Omar al-Bashir of Sudan’s prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo should resign” in todays Telegraph (17 July 2008). There you will find the explanation for the arrest warrant against al-Bashir

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