"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


khartoum sucks in the summer

Good to see that the ICC's issuance of an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is having its intended effect. First, Bashir declared his intention to throw out every foreign aid organization. He already expelled thirteen aid groups from Darfur, thus cutting off vital access to food, water, and shelter for hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons. (Not surprisingly, things there are getting much, much worse very quickly.) Now, our man in Khartoum? He's traveling.

Generally, when the whole world is out to get you and you aren't just paranoid, it's best not to cross international borders. Arrests tend to happen at major international airports. But al-Bashir doesn't seem to be particularly concerned about the possibility of ending up in a tiny concrete room at the Hague. Then again, he's only traveled to Eritrea. In the "enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-former-enemy-but-is-now-my-friend-at-least-until-Ethiopia's-government-changes" world of Horn of Africa politics, getting arrested in Eritrea is among al-Bashir's least likely scenarios. Eritrea is not a signatory to the statues of the ICC, so they have no obligations to the international community to hand him over. (Plus, the Eritreans were so betrayed by so many countries for so long, they don't really feel any obligations to anybody. There's a fantastic book on that subject if you're interested in learning more.)

Will al-Bashir continue to travel abroad in open defiance of the ICC? It seems unlikely to me. His other neighbors mostly hate him, and Sudanese Islamic clerics have issued a fatwa against al-Bahsir's traveling to Qatar for next week's Arab League Summit. al-Bashir previously said that he'd go to Doha (Qatar is also not an ICC signatory), but I seriously doubt he would defy his country's Committee of Islamic Scholars by heading that way.

Poor Omar. It's tough being stuck in Khartoum with nowhere but Asmara to go. I hear the Netherlands are lovely this time of year...


Anonymous Michael Westmoreland-White said...

Obama had best order a special prosecutor to investigate/prosecute Bush/Cheney or the ICC could issue such an arrest warrant for them. Imagine the debacle if they were traveling and then an arrest was attempted and the Secret Service had to decide whether or not to let them or Obama had to decide whether or not to extradite. Either way, it would make him a one-termer.

Better to risk a special prosecutor and try them at home. It's politically risky, but not as much as ignoring these war crimes until our allies decide to do something instead.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009 11:55:00 AM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

Interesting point, but the U.S. isn't a party to the ICC and therefore wouldn't have an obligation to extradite. And given the amount of time it takes the ICC to get a warrant together, I think they'd have plenty of warning before traveling abroad.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009 1:21:00 PM

Anonymous Michael Westmoreland-White said...

I forgot we "unsigned" the Treaty of Rome. However, we do have Treaty obligations to prosecute war crimes and plenty of our allies have "universal jurisdiction" laws for war crimes and torture, etc. Also, the UN has made noises like it might create a special tribunal for U.S. war criminals. So this could still happen. Canadian citizens were pressing Bush-wannabe PM Harper to enforce Canada's laws and either forbid Bush entrance recently or arrest him on arrival. Harper, of course, preferred to ignore Canadian and Int'l law--as Obama is--by not arresting and trying Bush.

You're right about the plenty of warning, though. That's why Kissinger is STILL very careful about where he travels.

Until big Western countries like the U.S. enforce compliance of human rights on our own politicians, we can't expect them to be enforced in places like Sudan. Hypocrisy undermines the law everywhere.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009 3:08:00 PM


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