Bashir Calls Everyone’s Bluff, Says He is Coming to UN General Assembly Meetings in New York City*
Wow! I kind of assumed all the posturing and tough talk from U.S. and ICC officials would scare off Sudan’s President Bashir from visiting NY next week to address the UN General Assembly. But it appears he really is coming.
Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, wanted by the International Criminal Court on genocide charges, said on Sunday he planned to attend this week’s U.N. General Assembly and had already booked a hotel in New York.
Washington has led calls for Bashir to face international justice over bloodshed in the now decade-old conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region, and a senior State Department official said last week that Bashir would “not receive a warm welcome” if he travelled to New York.
Although I think the U.S. has a legal obligation to allow Bashir to attend the meetings (and leave) unmolested, I am surprised the U.S. didn’t simply deny him the visa and dare the U.N. General Assembly or Secretariat to complain about it. Were they really going to file protests about this? Were states in the GA really going to go nuts over this? And hasn’t anyone asked the U.N. Secretary General to state his views, so as to give the U.S. cover to deny him the visa?
Maybe the U.S. is going to take up the ICC’s invitation to arrest Bashir. But I just can’t imagine they would want that hassle just now. Arresting a head of state is a dicey business, especially when you have no legal obligation to do so, and you would probably be violating other legal obligations to carry out the arrest (and you may spark more conflict back in Sudan as well). It seems it would have been easier just to deny him the visa.
More likely then, the U.S. is really going to let Bashir attend, and although he won’t get a warm welcome, the U.S. will probably not arrest him. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Sam Power may have a meltdown, especially if Bashir has reserved a room at the Waldorf Astoria (where she has a posh penthouse residence). Would love to see what happens if they bump into each other in the elevators… And Mia Farrow has vowed to chase him down, so things could get ugly over there.
Seriously, though, I do think that an unmolested Bashir visit to the UN GA meetings would be further evidence for Eric Posner’s thesis that the ICC is facing serious decline (if not Doom) (But see Kevin’s rebuttal here). I don’t think that the decline is the ICC’s “fault” (and I don’t think Posner thinks that either). Rather, the decline of the ICC may simply be the result of the lack of political will in the U.S. Government, the other UN member states, and in the UN’s key institutions. If Bashir is allowed to come to NY for the UN meetings, the lack of will among all of these players will be quite self-evident. Maybe we shouldn’t bother with the ICC if no one is going to actually support it when that support is needed.
*Right after this post went up, Mark Kersten reports that he hears that the visa hasn’t come through yet, which makes this post a bit premature, but hopefully still interesting!