War crimes warrant for Bashir risks sparking unrest in Sudan
The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant Wednesday for President Omar al-Bashir on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
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Bashir ended a decades-long north-south civil war, which claimed millions of lives, in 2003 by signing a comprehensive peace accord and agreeing to share power in a coalition government with the southern rebel movement, the SPLM. Despite Kiir's reassuring words, some experts worry that the peace deal could be dealt a fatal blow, as could similar peace talks with Darfur rebels, if SPLM leaders deem Bashir's government to be on its way out.Skip to next paragraph
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"We really have no experience of how to deal with this kind of situation," says Alex De Waal, an expert on Sudan at the Social Science Research Council in New York. "As a head of state, Bashir is implementing important matters, including elections this year, and, more important, the referendum in 2011." As part of its comprehensive peace accord, the south is scheduled to hold a referendum to decide whether to remain a part of Sudan, or to separate as its own country.
For this reason, leaders of the African Union and the Arab League have been working furiously to persuade the United Nations Security Council to encourage the international court to delay its indictment and issuing of an arrest warrant for at least a year. This, many African leaders believe, would give enough time for current peace talks with Darfur-based rebels to begin to bear fruit.
Critics: ICC has double standards
Many African leaders have found themselves siding with Bashir, despite the charges, because the ICC appears to pay more attention to the crimes of weaker African countries than those of rich Western ones, says Adam Habib, vice chancellor of the University of Johannesburg.
"It looks like white man's justice," says Mr. Habib. "It's easy to target Bashir because of Darfur, but then you have an illegal invasion of Iraq, where thousands of civilians have been killed and the country has been effectively destroyed."
If the US wants to take the lead in calling for justice, then it should join the ICC, says Habib. "It's systemic hypocrisy of the UN Security Council to refer cases like [Bashir's] to the [ICC] when one of the main members hasn't signed the treaty," Habib says, refering to the US.
But human rights groups insist the world should support the ICC's ruling.
"The international community should affirm its support for the Court and insist that Sudan and other countries cooperate with it as required by the UN Security Council," said Nick Grono, deputy president of the International Crisis Group.