The Arab League officially rejected the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. The move was anticipated, since numerous Arab League states had individually expressed solidarity with the Sudanese leader accused of orchestrating war crimes in Darfur. But the announcement is nonetheless a disappointment. The rhetoric from some of the Arab League members was predictably florid. Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi accused the ICC of “a new world terrorism that is not below the standard of the other terrorism." Syria’s Bashar al-Assad: maintained, “What is happening now with regards to Sudan is a new chapter in the chapters that consider the Arabs weak and disrespect the sovereignty of their countries.” Even the U.N. and African Union mediator in Darfur Djibrill Bassole argued that the arrest warrant would make a political solution to Darfur more difficult.
A few notable voices that have spoken up in favor of the ICC’s decision, among them Jordan and a coalition of human rights groups from the Middle East. But on the whole, the din of the Arab League summit, which ended yesterday afternoon, is overshadowing these responses.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon took a softly-softly line in his remarks to the Arab League, highlighting the dire humanitarian crisis but making no mention of the judicial process – a case that the U.N. itself referred to the ICC. Considering that the Arab League was expected to voice strong support for Bashir, this diplomatic line should not be surprising, but it would be refreshing if the Secretary General started using his bully pulpit to support international justice efforts sooner rather than later. Indeed, the ICC’s own members – a coalition of 108 states – have not done much in the way of defending the Court’s work on Sudan.