I Bravely Defend Obama’s Sudan Policy Against Mia Farrow

I Bravely Defend Obama’s Sudan Policy Against Mia Farrow

Actress Mia Farrow has a scathing op-ed in the WSJ today denouncing Obama’s Sudan policy. The crus of her critique is that Obama is not pushing hard to send Bashir to the ICC.

Last week U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that although he remains supportive of “international efforts” to bring Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to justice, the Obama administration is also pursuing “locally owned accountability and reconciliation mechanisms in light of the recommendations made by the African Union’s high-level panel on Darfur.”

Mr. Bashir is indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes and crimes against humanity, but the African Union Panel on Darfur has clearly aligned itself with Khartoum. One panel member, former Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Al Sayed, said in an interview with an Egyptian newspaper, “The prosecution of an African head of state before an international tribunal is totally unacceptable. Our goal was to find a way out.”

The African Union panel is led by former South African President Thabo Mbeki, who in 2008 dismissed the ICC indictment, saying that it is “the responsibility of the Sudanese state to act on those matters.” Then, late last year his panel proposed a counter initiative to the ICC in the form of a hybrid, Sudan-based court with both Arab and African judges to be selected by the African Union.

But all this is moot since Mr. Bashir swiftly rejected Mr. Mbeki’s proposal. Perversely, Mr. Gration has now thrown U.S. government support to a tribunal that does not and probably will never exist. Even if it did, the “locally owned accountability” he refers to is not feasible under prevailing political conditions, as any Sudan-based court will be controlled by the perpetrators themselves.

Farrow has a point about the sketchy effectiveness of the AU’s mechanism. Moreover, it is hard to reconcile the Obama administration’s support for the AU panel in light of the ICC Statute, which doesn’t (I believe) permit substitutions like this.

On the other hand, I just don’t understand why Farrow and activists like her believe that the ICC trial of Bashir will end up somehow ending the suffering in Sudan.  Essentially, she is arguing that only regime change can solve the problems here.  But she is proposing the removal of Bashir without any political mechanism to replace him and to prevent someone worse from coming to power (e.g. an occupation force).  The Obama policy is realistic (although perhaps not exactly legal).  Farrow’s faith in the ICC as something that can bring peace to Sudan is deeply misplaced

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I am certainly no expert on ICL, but regarding your comment as to whether the ICC Statute allows for “substitutions like this”… as the ICC hardly owns the conflict, wouldn’t this (hypothetically) rather be a question of complementarity or ne bis in idem from an ICC-point of view? Or possibly a problem of dual jurisdiction (and a possibly very interesting case of fragmentation of IL)?