Much has been made of the “African” response to the International Criminal Court’s decision to issue an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Bashir, as defined by the harsh statements against the Court by the African Union. But as findings released today from a recent poll indicate, the citizens of even some of the countries whose governments have come down opposed to the ICC are often far more supportive of the work of the ICC in Sudan.
WorldPublicOpinion.org polled over 6,000 participants in seven majority Muslim or African countries to gauge public sentiment toward the ICC. The organization found that the majority of participants in Kenya, Nigeria, Turkey, and Pakistan approve of the ICC’s issue a warrant for the arrest of President Bashir. Survey participants from the Palestinian Territories and Egypt opposed the move, while Iraqis were split.
According to Steven Kull, director of WorldPublicOpinion.org, the findings illustrate that the African and Muslim response to the ICC is more diverse than one might think from just reading recent headlines. He summed up the findings of the poll:
This suggests that leaders of some majority-Muslim and African nations, in denouncing the indictment of President Bashir, are out of step with their people.
The poll also noted Bashir’s move — in response to the warrant — to expel humanitarian groups providing assistance to displaced Sudanese and then asked participants this question:
If, as a result, many people in these camps start dying from hunger and exposure, do you think the UN should bring in food and other aid, escorted by military protection if necessary, even against the will of the government OR do you think this would be too much of a violation of Sudan’s sovereignty?
The overwhelming response from all seven countries was that the “UN should bring in shipments of aid, escorted by military protection if necessary.” The poll also sought to determine the influence that higher levels of information had on the participants’ opinion on these matters. (To read the full survey, click here.)
As the results of this poll demonstrate and as we’ve noted here a couple of times recently, monolithic “African” and “Muslim” responses to this issue should certainly not be gleaned from statements by bodies like the African Union and the Arab League, both of which have castigated the warrant in no uncertain terms. In thinking about the reason for this divergence, I am reminded of a poignant post about the African Union by Colin, in which he noted:
The AU includes a fair number of leaders with a lot of blood on their hands, so it’s no surprise that they would seek to shield themselves from individual prosecution. But for the victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity, the institutionalization within the AU of impunity for the likes of Bashir, Mugabe, Deby, Meles, Issayas, Kagame, and Gaddafi is deeply troubling.
Few countries or leaders have come out publicly voicing their support for the ICC’s move to hold Bashir accountable. However, this poll from WorldPublicOpinion.org helps to substantiate the fact that this landmark case for international justice has a much broader base of support than Bashir and his allies would have us think.