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Opinion

Obama, Darfur, and ICC justice

We must stand up to Sudan's shocking threats.

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But no such process exists or lies in prospect, primarily because no adequate pressure exists on Khartoum to engage meaningfully.

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Perversely, present efforts on Bashir's behalf by the Arab League, the African Union, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference work to sustain Khartoum's sense of impunity rather than create the necessary pressures for radical changes in regime behavior on the ground throughout Darfur – the key to any meaningful peace agreement.

That's why the "peace versus justice" trope often invoked by Westerners is the wrong way to think about Darfur. It's not a choice between peace and justice, not if we are serious about meaningful peace: for it is precisely the relentless absence of justice and accountability (impunity) that has sustained violence in Darfur and will continue to do so if unaddressed.

What will follow if an Obama administration, its Western and democratic allies, and a divided Security Council allow Khartoum to make good on its ominous threats?

After more than five years of genocidal counterinsurgency war, hundreds of thousands have died. Around 4.7 million civilians in Darfur remain affected by the conflict and in need of humanitarian assistance; nearly 3 million have been displaced from their homes, and approximately the same number need food aid.

The fragile lifeline of assistance simply cannot continue without greater protection of the sort promised by the UN-authorized peacekeeping force known as UNAMID. Yet now Khartoum is threatening UNAMID militarily and the tenuous security it provides to the world's largest and most endangered aid operation.

The Obama administration can take a key leadership role right now, beginning with unambiguous support for the international legitimacy of the ICC. The administration in waiting should also commit to the provision of critical helicopter and ground transport, the lack of which has so far crippled UNAMID.

The European Union must be pressed vigorously to impose monetary sanctions. Heavy diplomatic pressure must be exerted on China, Sudan's most powerful ally, to condemn all threats against the UN.

And the US must be sharply mindful of Khartoum's evasive penchant for engaging multiple diplomatic interlocutors: With its regional and global allies, the US must work to compel the regime to engage with a single, credible peace forum that recognizes not only Darfuri combatants and civil society leadership, but the obligations of international law.

To do less is to acquiesce to the threats of a brutal regime whose responsibility for atrocity crimes throughout Darfur is beyond dispute.

Eric Reeves is author of "A Long Day's Dying: Critical Moments in the Darfur Genocide."

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