A Sign ICC Getting Politicized

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Mohammad Bakhshandeh

The ruling against the Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir by the International Criminal Court at The Hague, contrary to the acclaim it received from the public opinion and statesmen over its previous rulings against war criminals in Serbia, Rwanda and Liberia, has sparked strongest protests and challenges. Except for a handful of Western governments which have displayed a silence of satisfaction or voiced explicit support for the ruling, members of a number of major international organizations such as the Arab League, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the African Union, and the Non-Aligned Movement who comprise two thirds of the United Nations member states, have challenged the legitimacy and effectiveness of the Hague ruling. Due to this huge global protest, two key members of the UN Security Council, namely China and Russia too entered the field to suspend the ruling the day after it was issued.

There are numerous questions and points in evaluation of the crisis triggered by this unconventional ruling of The Hague. Due to the haste of the jury, perhaps the most important argument is that the procedure in which the ICC has taken up the case not only does not reflect the realities of the complicated crisis in Darfur but in reality negates the very objective of the entire case. In other words, the decision of ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo instead of securing tranquility and helping the peace process in the region has become a source of deep crisis. It can be said from the attitude of the countries criticizing the ICC ruling that no one is opposed to investigation by legal institutions of the big human tragedy which has caused the death of 300,000 people and rendered 2 million homeless in the course of five years of ethnic clashes in Darfur region. However, investigation into this catastrophe is a bit complicated due to the differences over the nature of the ethnic war.

One can conclude from the ruling issued by the ICC chief prosecutor that he has relied in his judgment on the overwhelming theory in the Western media and circles claiming that the cause of the genocide in this African region with a population of five million is the Arab discrimination shown by the Sudanese side in order to maintain Arab dominance. But other investigations show that the root cause of the crisis originates from opposition and secessionist activities of several secessionist groups against the central government in Sudan.

There are also evidences here which question the legitimacy of the ruling issued by Judge Moreno-Ocampo. The court case against the Sudanese president has been opened through follow-up and sending direct letters by European sides, particularly the French who are one political side of the legal suit. Long time before a Darfur investigation team was formed in The Hague the United States supported by its Western allies at the UN Security Council had issued its ruling against the Sudanese government and the person of President Bashir. A number of UN resolutions to punish Sudan and impose sanctions on the African state were also issued.

They did not even deny that the ultimate aim of these measures is to topple and “change the political regime” in Sudan. That the aim and motive of this quarrel of the US and European governments with Sudan was to restore tranquility to the crisis stricken Darfur is not even endorsed by realistic Western observers. One reason for rejecting this claim was exposed on the international day of Darfur last year when dozens of international institutions published their reports on the four-year calamity in Darfur. Most of these reports underlined the silence of the US and Europe vis-à-vis the catastrophe. In the same reports, the European circles mentioned one bitter reality by disclosing that some were after ‘black gold’ in the dispute. In fact, Sudan which is an oil and energy rich country was placed in the list of Western sanctions after it picked China as its main oil partner. Another obvious reason is that the West’s conflict with Sudan goes back to 20-30 years ago. The events of the past three decades clearly show that the hostility of the West, particularly the US with Sudan began from the late 1980s when political power in Khartoum came out of the hands of the Westernized faction led by Jaafar Numeiri and the foundation of the first Islamist government was laid by Hassan Torabi and Omar al-Bashir.

It must be noted that the ICC ruling has been issued under conditions that Sudan will be holding an important election soon with Bashir leading as the representative of the Islamist faction.

News reports indicate that immediately after the Hague ruling, the US President Barack Obama has called in Sudanese opposition groups for consultation. The agenda of the meeting is a plan followed up by George Bush in the last days of his term by inviting Bashir’s main rival Salva Kiir Mayardit to the White House.

No matter how much Judge Moreno-Ocamp insists that his ruling is not politically motivated but it has different meaning, application and impact as Sudan is going through its most political climate.


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