War crimes charges rattle Sudan
The World Court could soon issue an arrest warrant for President Bashir on charges of genocide.
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Back in July, the African Union suggested that international legal experts help Sudan conduct its own investigations into crimes in Darfur through monitoring and oversight that would give the Sudanese judicial system more credibility. The government initially agreed, and then changed course, unenthusiastic about outside interference. More recently, leading Sudanese opposition figure Sadiq al-Mahdi similarly suggested a hybrid court – using both Sudanese and non-Sudanese judges – to try the president, possibly in-country. This model has been used in Sierra Leone and Cambodia.Skip to next paragraph
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But critics are skeptical of the time it would take to set up a new court and the reliance – even if only in part – on an "incompetent" and "unwilling" Sudanese judiciary, as Darfurian human rights lawyer Salih Osman calls it, to deliver justice. War crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide are not part of the Sudanese penal code to begin with, he points out, adding that legal reforms would be necessary.
"The whole hybrid proposal is in serious doubt because of lack of commitment and good faith on the part of the government," added Baldo, of the International Center for Transitional Justice.
Regardless of how is he tried, there is a perception among some that "Bashir is finished," as the first diplomat put it.
But Bashir has proved to be a survivor. He has weathered the storm for 20 years despite many tests to his leadership: a civil war in the south, Sudan being shunned internationally as a pariah state and a sponsor of terrorism, financial sanctions, and this latest Darfurian rebellion.
"If he's able to get sufficient support across the Sudanese constituency, then why does he need the international community?" says Alex de Waal, program director at the New York-based Social Science Research Council, author of many books on Sudan and world-renowned expert on the country.
With much of the Arab and African world already taking a stand in support of Bashir and against the ICC, the Sudanese president would be free to travel within Africa with little threat of arrest.
What is more, Turabi, like other opposition parties and rebels, accuses the NCP of planning to rig next year's elections – a move that would allow Bashir to continue ruling, despite the arrest warrant, with a certain air of legitimacy.
"In this part of the world," says Turabi, "nobody is finished [just] because he will be proven to be a criminal."