To Arrest or Not to Arrest: African Civic Leaders

As criticism and concerns over the arrest warrant has mounted*, others have stepped in to support the ICC’s decisions. Notably, nearly 4 months after the ICC issued the arrest warrant for Bashir, prominent peace activists and African leaders, including Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Wangari Maathai and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, issued a statement which highlights the potential of the ICC to have a positive role in securing peace and justice in Sudan.


African Civil Leaders, Statement on the Situation in Sudan

(June 25, 2009)1

We, the undersigned, are deeply concerned by the ongoing violence, displacement and repression in Sudan. We seek to urge the international community—including Sudan’s neighbors and friends and, in particular, the leaders and peoples of Africa—to support the search for credible justice and accountability in Sudan and the International Criminal Court’s role in promoting these.

 We view the need for justice and accountability for the peoples of Sudan, in addition to adequate humanitarian assistance and physical protection, as vital to any durable peace, and support the role of the ICC in achieving these objectives. We are hopeful that this work will help break the cycles of violence and the culture of silence in the Darfur region and throughout Sudan.    We are convinced that the ICC can be one effective vehicle, alongside national and regional mechanisms, for achieving justice for the gross violations committed by all sides in the conflict in Darfur. The people of Darfur deserve more than negotiating warlords forgiving each other for the violence—including brutal sexual violence—they have perpetrated primarily against women, children and other non-combatants. There can be no real peace without justice and security.    The people of Darfur have clearly vocalized a desire for justice and accountability. The ICC has the potential to help break the cycle of death and devastation caused by years of violent conflict and abuses of power.    We are deeply disheartened by the response of the government of Sudan to the ICC’s decision on March 4, 2009 to issue an arrest warrant for President Omar Al-Bashir. By expelling and restricting humanitarian NGOs and relief workers in the desperate Darfur region, the government of Sudan further endangers the estimated 4.7 million people in the region who rely on food, medical and water aid. The expelled organizations were responsible for some 50 percent of this aid. The Sudanese government has an obligation to ensure that the needs of its people are met and to that end must either allow these organizations back into the region, or ensure that alternative and equally capable delivery mechanisms are promptly deployed without further delay . . . .   We believe that progress in the peace talks must happen in tandem with the ICC’s work for justice and cooperation by all in restoring the capabilities of Sudan’s institutions to ensure accountability for crimes. We call on the friends of Sudan to join in supporting the independence of the ICC and the ICC’s work for justice and peace in Sudan      



  1. Chris Waluk and Rebecca Hamilton represent millions of people around the world who have followed events in Sudan and taken action to stop the violence in Darfur. What factors motivate individuals to get involved in stopping and preventing injustice, even when it is happening halfway around the world? What responsibility do individuals have to prevent violence and injustice wherever it occurs? Do all people share the same level of responsibility, or do some people (those who are geographically closer to events, those who have more power, those who belong to the same cultural, gender, or religions affiliations) have a greater responsibility to protect those in harm’s way? What is an appropriate role for citizen-activists like Rebecca Hamilton and Chris Waluk?
  2. A Sudanese blogger living in Britain posted this comment immediately after the ICC issued the arrest warrant for President al-Bashir:

    What about the millions of Sudanese citizens that have clearly demonstrated their opposition to your request to arrest our president? Is it justice when an outsider intervenes in my country’s affairs? Whatever happened to democracy?2

    How would Bec Hamilton or Luis Moreno-Ocampo respond to this argument? Under what conditions, if any, is it appropriate for the international community to intervene in a country’s affairs to protect a vulnerable minority?
  3. In their official statement, African leaders and peace activists wrote, “There can be no real peace without justice and security.” What do you think “real peace” means? Why do many people, including the Nobel Peace Prize winners who signed this statement, believe that creating peaceful societies requires justice and security? Is it possible to have “real peace” in a community where wrongdoers go unpunished? Why or why not?
  4. Chris Waluk asserts that the people of Darfur will find peace not through justice but through “freedom of the press.” To what extent do you agree or disagree with Waluk’s argument? In what ways might greater freedom of speech and access to media help end violence against the people of Darfur?
  5. Benjamin Ferencz, Chief Prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials following World War II, was responsible for bringing top Nazi officials to justice. In a 1998 speech, Ferencz commented on the importance of international justice as a tool for the prevention of crimes against humanity:

    The certainty of punishment can be a powerful deterrent. To condemn crime yet provide no institution able to convict the guilty is to mock the victims and encourage dangerous unrest....International law must prevail over international crime....One thing is sure—without clear international laws, courts and effective enforcement there can be no deterrence, no justice and no world peace....3

    According to Ferencz, what are the implications if President al-Bashir (and other Sudanese leaders) do not face any punishment for the crimes they have committed against innocent women, children, and men? Besides the possibility of being punished in a court of law, what other ways can be used to deterpeople from committing crimes?
  6. What does this situation in Sudan suggest about the purpose of the ICC? Who benefits from having an international criminal court that has the power to issue arrest warrants for leaders accused of harming their own citizens? What are the drawbacks or costs associated with the ICC? Who bears the brunt of these costs?

  Continue to the Lesson Ideas and Related Links for this module.    

*For a deeper understanding of reservations about the ICC’s decision to issue an arrest warrant for President al-Bashir, we suggest reading the work of scholar and human rights activist Eric Reeves (

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