Why Arab leaders embrace Sudan's indicted president
At the Arab League summit Monday, the UN secretary general condemned Sudan's expulsion of humanitarian aid groups in response to the ICC arrest warrant for Bashir.
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In a region plagued by human right violations, no Arab or African leader wants to set the precedent of one of their own being indicted, says Sondra Hale, a UCLA professor who has studied Sudan and Eritrea for 47 years.Skip to next paragraph
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"With regard to Eritrea, it has been one of the most independent and isolated of all African countries and the idea of any international body imposing a law on them would be anathema," she says, "Eritrean leaders are also vulnerable to charges of violations of human rights for jailing and persecuting the opposition for many years."
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem told reporters in Doha on Sunday that "what is required from all of us is to stand with our brothers in Sudan and its leadership in order to prevent dangers that affect our collective security." On the same day, Arab League diplomats endorsed the text of a resolution rejecting the ICC indictment.
"The leaders reject attempts to politicize the principles of international justice and using them to undermine the sovereignty, unity and stability, of Sudan," said the draft resolution, according to The Associated Press.
Meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on March 5, the African Union also affirmed a resolution "expressing deep concern" over the indictment, saying it would hinder efforts to negotiate peace in Darfur. The AU called on the UN to "assume its responsibilities by deferring the process initiated by the ICC."
The ICC can defer a case at the request of the Security Council, though it has never done so. The court relies on its member states to make arrests. None of the states Bashir has visited are party to the court's founding treaty, making it unlikely that he will be put on trial.
Sudan appears confident that the support of its neighbors will discourage the international community from pursuing its prosecution of Bashir.
He says that Sudan and Egypt "will be going forward hand-in-hand" on that effort.
Sudan's stability a key issue
But Arab states have little particular interest in Omar al-Bashir per se, says Hani Raslan, the head of the Sudan Studies Unit at the Ahram Center, a Cairo think tank. Rather, they are concerned that the indictment could threaten the viability of Sudan as a state.
"Countries like Egypt and other Arab countries support Sudan on the question of the ICC because it is very dangerous to the state of Sudan itself, not just the regime of President al-Bashir," he says, "Now that there is peace between the North and the South, Egypt does not want to see a return to a larger civil war."
Ms. Hale also says that the recent revelation that Israel launched air strikes in Sudan in January and February against smugglers bringing Iranian weapons from the Horn of Africa to Gaza is "a further complicating factor."
It allows "the Sudanese state and its supporters to claim conspiracy to undermine the sovereign state," she says.
For some, the air strikes also highlight the very Sudanese instability that they fear spreading.
"These shipments are happening through Sudanese territory because the role of the central government is very weak outside of Khartoum and Omdurman," says Nabil Abdel Fattah, Assistant Director of the Ahram Center. "This is a historical fact of the so-called modern state of Sudan."