Global law claims new turf in Sudan
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Going after the top dogs - the small number who bear the greatest responsibility for atrocities - offers the ICC "a great opportunity ... to play a part in trying to bring an end to the violence in Darfur and promote justice," Sorokobi says.Skip to next paragraph
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Though Sorkobi says the Darfur investigation will be "quick and judicious," court observers do not expect any indictments for at least a year. The ICC has not yet issued any indictments in either Uganda or Congo, after more than 18 months of investigation.
"The problem will be to get the defendants in the dock," warns Judge Goldstone, who began prosecuting Balkan war criminals at the International Tribunal on Crimes in the Former Yugoslavia in 1993. It was only after the Dayton peace agreement, and the arrival of NATO-led troops, however, that Goldstone had the means to actually arrest anyone.
The AU is the only international body with troops on the ground in Darfur, but they are there under a very weak mandate allowing them only to "monitor" the situation, and to protect only the civilians in their immediate vicinity. The idea that they might arrest Janjaweed members in the foreseeable future "is a nonstarter," says Richard Cornwell of the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria.
Nor does the UN Security Council, where two members, Russia and China, have close economic relations with Sudan, seem willing to send any other international forces to Darfur to halt the violence, let alone to support court investigators.
The Security Council "has set a legal procedure in process, but it has not yet given it any teeth," worries Adam Roberts, an expert on international law at Oxford University in England. "We cannot be very optimistic at this stage about the chances of gathering the kind of evidence to persuade a court of law."
Other observers foresee a greater impact for the ICC in Sudan. "Regime officials are very worried about the long-term ramifications of the ICC investigation," says John Prendergast, an analyst with the Crisis Group, a conflict prevention non-profit, via e-mail from Washington.
Those "indicted by the ICC will become international pariahs," he points out. And since there is no statute of limitations on war crimes, nor do ICC arrest warrants expire, "eventually the likelihood is that they will be picked up and tried," Mr. Prendergast adds. "Justice will not come quickly in Sudan. But it will come."
The violence in Darfur, which President Bush has said amounts to "genocide," appears to be changing some minds in Washington - at least a little - about the value of the ICC. The US administration has long been a fierce opponent of the court, fearing it could launch politically motivated prosecutions of American citizens abroad, and has tried strenuously to undermine the court's legitimacy.
At the end of March, US policymakers faced a dilemma when the UN Security Council debated referring the situation in Darfur to the ICC prosecutor. To have voted in favor would have shown support for the court, but voting against, and blocking the move, would have left Washington vulnerable to criticism that it was abetting genocide. The US abstained, allowing the resolution to pass.
Two weeks ago, US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick told reporters that the ICC proceedings are "a useful deterrence against others" and allow the US to emphasize the need to stop the violence."
That attitude, says Princeton Lyman, a former US ambassador to Nigeria and South Africa, suggests that "this case has opened the door to American acceptance of the ICC as having a legitimate international role."
- Peter Ford
• Purpose: To prosecute war crimes, genocide, crimes of aggression, and crimes against humanity. The ICC is distinct from the World Court, a civil tribunal that arbitrates disputes between nations; they are both UN bodies.
• Date established: Formally came into effect July 1, 2002.
• Location: The Hague, Netherlands.
• Chief Prosecutor: Luis Moreno-Ocampo.
• Who belongs? 130 countries have signed the ICC treaty; 99 have ratified it. The US, China, and Sudan have not.