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The ICC Debate: Weekend Round Up Edition

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The ICC Debate: Weekend Round Up Edition

Posted by Maggie Fick on March 9, 2009

In the wake of the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant issuance for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and the Sudanese government’s subsequent expulsion of thirteen international non-governmental organizations, or NGOs—which provide lifesaving assistance to beleaguered populations in Darfur as well as in north and east Sudan—there has been vociferous debate regarding the implications of the Court’s decision for justice and peace in Sudan and throughout the world. 

After a busy week of coverage of the ICC developments, during which a number of leading international organizations as well as most major American and international papers and news sources responded to the implications of the warrant and the NGO shutdown in Darfur, opinion makers continued the debate into the weekend. In summary—and at risk of oversimplifying the arguments below for brevity’s sake—here are a few updates from over the weekend:
  • On, Michael Kleinman reports on the impact in Darfur of the removal of humanitarian NGOs, while Stop Genocide takes Kleinman to task for insinuating that members of the advocacy, activist, and policy circles who focus on Darfur "don’t care as much about the people on the ground in Darfur" as those who are directly serving these people as humanitarian workers. 
  • Opinio Juris’ Kevin Jon Heller weighs in on the Change. org bloggers’ debate, skillfully critiquing Kleinman’s recommendation that the international community essentially “do nothing” (in response to President Bashir’s NGO expulsion) by calling for an Article 16 suspension of the arrest warrant.
  • Reporting from Darfur, Rob Crilly makes an important contribution by stating what has been somewhat of an elephant of the room in this debate—the fact that humanitarian assistance is (as it has been in many other conflicts) a political pawn for Khartoum. Crilly has been (in his words) “deeply critical of the Save Darfur movement and its supporters.” However, in this post yesterday, Crilly argues that aid agencies are partly to blame for the current situation, because “they have been routinely screwed by Khartoum without so much as batting an eyelid,” which has “emboldened Khartoum, allowing them to think they could act with impunity.”
  • Wronging Rights and Chris Blattman come down firmly opposed to the warrant against Bashir, questioning the Court’s competence and arguing that the warrant is in reality a veiled attempt aimed at forcibly removing Bashir from power. 
  • U.N. Dispatch’s John Boonstra wonders if President Bashir’s reportedly largely unilateral decision is indicative of “potential turmoil in Sudan’s inner political circle.” An astute observation and a likely possibility.
  • In his Sunday New York Times column, Nicholas Kristof hammers the Obama administration for their initially weak response to what he called the “gauntlet” thrown at Washington by Khartoum following the warrant issuance. Certainly a fair critique, but here’s to hoping that Obama’s Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice’s preferred hard-hitting approach to Khartoum will hold sway with her boss. Kristof cites Rice’s astute comment regarding the NGO expulsion: “If this decision stands, it may well amount to genocide by other means.”
  • Meanwhile, rumors of U.S.-enforced no-fly zone seem to be percolating.
And in today’s Washington Post, Robert Kagan surveys the Obama administration’s foreign policy promises and urges the President to move beyond his predecessor’s policy of strong rhetoric followed by little action. Odd that Kagan does not mention the case of Darfur, a textbook example of the Bush administration’s mismatched rhetoric and actions and a key area where Obama could follow through on his promises.