President Bashir took a little risk in his first trip since a warrant was issued for his arrest by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide. Previously, he had only been visiting countries that were not signatories to the ICC. This week, he traveled to Chad, which is a signatory. The Chadians decided not to apprehend this particular genocide suspect, despite their obligations under international law. This is unfortunate but simply an expression of Chad's domestic political situation, in which the regime there is looking to improve ties with the Sudan government in order to reduce Sudanese support for Chadian rebels.
This won't be the last time the ICC gets caught up in politics. So we shouldn't be discouraged, but just understand this missed opportunity as a function of the deeply flawed international system as it relates to the promotion of human rights. Speaking of flawed, we need only look at the confused response of the United States to the genocide warrant issued last week for Bashir. In the same week as President Obama was praising the Court, his special envoy for Sudan, General Scott Gration, was expressing concerns about the impact of the warrants on his job.
The lack of imagination is staggering. General Gration does not see that, rather than hindering his work, the ICC warrants provide a point of significant leverage in support of peace in Sudan. First of all, sustainable peace will not come to Sudan without justice, so breaking that cycle of impunity is a prerequisite for progress. Second, if the U.S. and other countries that are ICC signatories (the United States isn't) were more unified and vocal in their support of these arrest warrants in Sudan, this would have a major impact in deterring future human rights abuses. Third, the possibility of a one year conditional deferral of the warrants exists in the ICC charter in the interests of peace, so if Khartoum did all it could to ensure peace in Darfur and the South as well as provided for credible alternative justice mechanisms in Darfur, a deferral of the warrant could be possible.
That is real leverage for peace. President Obama, please note.
N.B.: I had a chance to talk with NPR’s Michele Kelemen about Bashir’s visit to Chad on today’s Morning Edition. Listen here.