Bashir Was Ready to Step Down Before the Arrest Warrant? Really?

by Kevin Jon Heller

That’s what Rob Crilly claims in an editorial today in the Telegraph:

Before he was indicted, Bashir told regional leaders and his confidantes that he was ready to step down: after 20 years in office, he was ready for a holiday, and retirement to a smart new villa in the north of Khartoum. Now, fearing arrest by a new regime, he has promised his inner circle that he will fight on.

I have never heard this claim before, and Crilly provides no support for it.  I’m skeptical, particularly given that Crilly is a leading proponent of the “blame the ICC and the NGOs, not Bashir” movement.  He describes Bashir in the article, for example, as a “pragmatist” who is not “the monster of popular imagination.”  (Apparently, he is just misunderstood by all those mean prosecutors and activists.)  But I’m willing to be convinced.

Anybody out there know whether Crilly’s claim is accurate?

UPDATE: An intrepid reader contacted Crilly, who replied, “He said it on at least three different occasions. Sources rock solid.”  Crilly did not identify the sources, and I remain skeptical.  Even if Bashir said it, though, it is difficult to believe that he meant it.  If Bashir had communicated a genuine willingness to step down to the ICC, I think it’s safe to say that the OTP would have been willing to not bring charges against him.

UPDATE 2: Crilly has a short blog post on Bashir’s alleged statement here.  He says he has been sitting on the information for a while — why, I don’t know.

http://opiniojuris.org/2010/04/07/bashir-was-ready-to-step-down-before-the-arrest-warrant-really/

11 Responses

  1. Log onto Twitter and send him a message at @robcrilly. He generally responds to comments/questions.

  2. I hope someone out there will do it.  I don’t use Twitter.

  3. Even if this is not accurate, doesn’t it at least highlight the possibility that ICC proceedings against leaders might be an incentive for them to stay in power? See Joesph Kony, Robert Mugabe, al-Bashir…

  4. The same argument was made about Milosevic and Taylor, and we know how that turned out.

  5. What do those examples say to a despot in power at the moment? If you are indicted, it’s better to stay in power for as long as possible at any cost rather than to negotiate. Justice may prevail, but it might have the effect of prolonging a conflict or humanitarian disaster. Proponents of ICL should acknowledge that sometimes in might bring unintended consequences.

  6. Prof. Heller only believes the papers when they say bad things about the United States. It helps if you know, like him, what to believe before you get the facts.

  7. Another content- and argument-free comment by Pensans. I’d love to respond, but there is, of course, nothing to respond to…

  8. Kevin,

    I have no idea one way or the other whether Bashir would have been willing to step down but for the ICC indictment.  That being said, there is certainly a logic to a dictator extending his stay in power so as to avoid being transferred to an international criminal tribunal.  Indeed, staying in power may be the only hope Bashir has to avoid appearing before the ICC.

    I don’t see Taylor or Milosevic as counter-examples.  Milosevic was only transferred to the ICTY after he was out of power.  As you will recall, he attempted to rig an election and then was forced to step down by massive street protests.  Taylor stepped down largely because he had lost control of Liberia (rebels were in charge of over 1/2 of the country at the time).  In addition, he thought he had negotiated a safe haven for himsef in Nigeria.  If anything, Taylor’s experience tells Bashir that he cannot avoid prosecution simply by negotiating his departure from office and/or by orchestrating an amnesty. 
     
    This is not to say that the OTP should have refrained from indicting Bashir, of course, but it certainly seems likely that the indictment will not facilitate his ouster.

  9. Milan,

    The point is that Milosevic and Taylor were still in power when they were indicted by international tribunals.  At the time, the same arguments were made that are now made about Bashir — they will stay in power forever if they are facing charges; the charges undermine the possibility for peace; etc.  As you note, that is not how things turned out.

  10. Have responded to Crilley on Twitter:

    @robcrilly RE: Bashir and the ICC, How can we believe your claim without sources? I’m EXTREMELY skeptical…

    I think what KJH is trying to get at is that maybe an ICC warrant may help as opposed to hinder the arrest of a suspected criminal.
    Even so, if Bashir had been granted immunity before, would it hold up at the ICC, or would he still be in danger of being taken to the ICT? (have a feeling this is a stupid question)

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. [...] Opinio Juris was asking for verification on Rob Crilly’s contentious satement in his Telegraph op-ed today: Then, last year, the campaign won its second big victory, when the ICC issued a warrant for the arrest of Bashir on war crimes charges. But that, too, is backfiring. Before he was indicted, Bashir told regional leaders and his confidantes that he was ready to step down: after 20 years in office, he was ready for a holiday, and retirement to a smart new villa in the north of Khartoum. Now, fearing arrest by a new regime, he has promised his inner circle that he will fight on. He is not a man to bow to pressure – nor is he the monster of popular imagination. He is certainly a war criminal, but he has shown that he can be pragmatic, as when he signed a ceasefire with rebels in the south in 2005. [...]