Darfuris’ “Mixed” Feelings About the Warrant for Bashir’s Arrest

by Kevin Jon Heller

The Institute for War and Peace Reporting’s article today about Darfur is entitled “Darfuris’ Mixed Feelings Over Bashir Warrant.”  When I first saw the title, I thought that the article was going to discuss Darfuris who believe that the warrant will undermine the possibility of a lasting peace in the region.  My bad:

“We are really very happy about the arrest warrant against al-Bashir. It is a victory for [Darfur refugees],” said Adam Bush, a refugee and spokesman for some of the nearly 150,000 Darfuris living in around the town of Zalingi.

“However, we see the genocide charge has not been included in the charges – but we believe this is a genocide.”

While many Darfuris applauded the recent indictment by the International Criminal Court, ICC, of Sudan president Omar al-Bashir, some were disappointed that genocide was not among the war crimes charges.

The destruction of Darfur communities has been nearly total, Bush continued, and has been focused on specific ethnic groups.


Another who disagreed with the court on genocide was Yacoub Bakhit, a resident of the Kasab refugee camp in north Darfur.

“I totally don’t agree with them,” he said. “If Al-Bashir and his army didn’t perpetrate acts of genocide, who else did in this world?

“The simple fact that no one can deny today is that, in his campaign, Al-Bashir has deliberately and intentionally targeted the African tribes of Darfur in order to eradicate them forever. I request the court to review carefully his deeds.”

Meanwhile, other Darfur refugees are hopeful that the ICC charges filed against Al-Bashir will lead to an end to war and suffering.

“We support and welcome the court’s decision to arrest Al-Bashir,” said Halima Adam, a refugee from south Darfur. “We have been waiting eagerly for this day.”

Adam blamed Al-Bashir for the death of thousands in Darfur and the continuing plight of millions like her.

“We had a very simple and happy life before 2003,” she told IWPR. “We used to go freely to our farms and grow food. We had houses and properties, but now [are] deprived of every thing and end up living in tents and under trees as if we are not human beings.”

When asked about those who demonstrated in Khartoum in support of Al-Bashir on the day he was indicted by the ICC, she replied, “Maybe they are right in supporting him. They have every thing they need. They have houses to live in and food to eat, and most importantly, they have peace.”

But Khartoum is a long way from Darfur, she said, and people there don’t realise what Darfur has suffered.

“They have never experienced the misery of war and terror,” she said. “People here in the camps are also dancing and singing, [but] in support of the ICC’s decision. Yet, “there is no media coverage” of such celebrations.

Ahmed Ali, a Darfuri refugee living in Kariyari camp in eastern Chad, told IWPR he was hopeful the indictment of Al-Bashir would bring peace to the region.

“This decision will mark the end of Darfur crisis,” Ali said. “It stops the killing and horrible crimes against the people.”

“Mixed feelings” indeed — ranging from joy over the warrant to joy tempered with regret that it doesn’t include the genocide charges.

Thank goodness we have the ICC critics to save the Darfuris from themselves!


3 Responses

  1. It’s so interesting to see the reaction of people in Darfur who don’t have the luxury of contemplating the effect the ICC’s idictment will have on international politics.  These people are just fighting to stay alive and get back to a normal life. 

  2. To add a wrinkle to the peace vs. justice debate: I’ve been wondering how the Sudanese political system will change if/when Bashir is arrested/convicted and can no longer serve as President.  I assume the First VP (Kiir) will become the new President?  And Kiir happens to be SPLA – Does anyone know if the ideology of Bashir’s successor a consideration for the OTP/Security Council when deciding to pursue a sitting president?  Moreover, in future ICC prosecutions of sitting leaders, what will the ICC/international comunity do if there is a “vice despot” waiting in the wings to take over and wreak havoc?  The international community (including the Security Council?) cannot use ICC prosecutions of sovereigns as pretext for restructuring oppressive/unlawful national governments (in part because ICC defendants’ crimes are considered outside the scope of their sovereign roles) . . . can it? 

  3. Interesting read: Bill Schabas’ views on the whole issue (http://iccobservers.wordpress.com/2009/03/26/icc-observers-exclusive-interview-william-schabas-professor-of-human-rights-law-and-director-of-the-irish-centre-for-human-rights-at-the-national-university-of-ireland-galway/)

    I saw Moreno O’Campo speaking last monday at a special session of the Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee of the Council of Europe in Berlin and he was very convincingly making his case, basicially asking for the continuous diplomatic support of the CoE. for his work.

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