World court's big move on Darfur
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Still, Tuesday's Darfur indictment is considered crucial in international legal circles since it is the first such case to be referred by the United Nations Security Council. Neither China, which has close ties to the Sudanese regime, Russia, or the US blocked the Darfur case.Skip to next paragraph
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Washington's tacit approval is significant, experts say, since the US has not participated in the ICC since it was established in 1998.
"The US position [to allow Darfur investigations to go forward] is a turning point institutionally," says Diane Orentlicher of American University's Washington College of Law, "since it reflects a willingness of the US to accept the jurisdiction of the court."
"All the NGO reports, the UN reports, the State Department, and the commissions, point to a pattern of crimes committed by the janjaweed as a proxy of the Sudanese government," says a source with close ties to the prosecutor. "The pattern is one of aerial attack by government planes and helicopters followed by janjaweed on the ground, sometimes supplemented by government troops."
Sudan says it will not extradite those indicted at The Hague. Still war crimes experts argue that international courts such as the Rwanda and Yugoslavia tribunals eventually proved to build moral and strategic arguments against those charged, which eventually limited their ill-doings and provided a basis for rebuilding the society.
International tribunals, which rarely have much clout, have faced a steady uphill climb over the years, with skepticism if not cynicism about their effectiveness a widely shared feeling among politicians and powerbrokers.
Yet they have continued to develop.
"Some people may never be brought to trial," says Anne Heindel, assistant director of war crimes research at American University in Washington. "But restricting their movements has an overall effect, making it harder [for them] to operate."
The inability of the court to travel in Darfur worries some international human rights legal scholars, who say the evidence should be gathered from the site of the war crimes themselves. Others have argued eloquently that charges of genocide should be brought in Darfur.
Yet most experts seem to agree that the ICC should simply proceed with as much professionalism and investigation as possible. "With this submission, the ICC Chief Prosecutor has stood up for the victims of the mass atrocities in Darfur and awakened the hope for justice in the region. He has also warned all parties to the conflict that they will pay a heavy price for any further attacks on civilians," said Maureen Byrnes, executive director of Human Rights First in New York, in a press release Tuesday.
"The first submission should not be the last," Byrnes adds. "The Chief Prosecutor should pursue evidence of criminal responsibility up the chain of command, no matter how high it takes him." The ICC prosecutor will submit his indictment to judges at The Hague court, after which the judges will decide how and whether to conduct a trial.