To Arrest or Not to Arrest:
Reactions to the ICC's Arrest Warrant for President Al-Bashir
The arrest warrant issued on March 4th, 2009 against Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, represents the first time a sitting head of state has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC). A day after the warrant was issued, Bashir reacted by expelling and disbanding aid organizations that provided at least half of the humanitarian assistance received in the Darfur region. This decision, on top of that of the indictment, has attracted international attention, and people from around the world—students, activists, and concerned citizens—closely follow news that comes out of Sudan. Among those interested people is Chris Waluk, a teacher from North Carolina. On March 6, 2009, two days after the ICC issued the arrest warrant for Bashir, he wrote a blog post titled, “Can the ICC Save Darfur?” He worries that the arrest warrant might cause more harm than good:
Chris Waluk's Blog, March 2009: "Can the ICC Save Darfur?"1
On Wednesday, the ICC issued a warrant for the arrest of Sudanese president Bashir . . . .This is the first warrant for a head of state issued by the ICC since it’s creation in 2002 . . . . Clearly Bashir is directly responsible for supporting the Janjaweed tribes responsible for all the death and rape in Darfur over the last 5 years. Over 300,000 people have died and the Western world is struggling to find any notion of a solution. . . . Finally, after years of deliberation, a case was brought before the ICC and a warrant was handed down for the arrest of Sudan’s president. Justice. Well, it’s only been a few days and we are already seeing several predictable problems emerging. The most obvious being that it will be impossible to capture Bashir. The UN peacekeeping force already said they would not do the job, and I’m not sure who else the ICC could send. To go into Khartoum and arrest the guy would require a large scale military operation resulting in thousands of casualties, with a limited possibility of success. It’ll never happen. But just for the sake of argument, let’s say they were actually able to capture Bashir. Would that help Sudan? . . . Bashir is very popular amongst the Arab majority of Sudan, and you can’t just rob a country of their president without a significant backlash from his supporters. This might in fact be the worse scenario for "Darfur . . . . The simple truth is that the ICC will not be able to capture Bashir. In retaliation for the warrant, Bashir has already removed 13 aid organizations from Darfur . . . . If things were bad before, I’m deathly afraid that it could get much worse. So without justice, how do we find peace? I firmly believe that the answer lies in the freedom of the press. The overwhelming majority of people who suffer from human rights violations live in countries who deny freedom of speech. Only when lines of communication are opened can equality be attained . . . . The power of the open media is a powerful deterrent to those who burn down villages and rape women. People only commit these atrocities when they know they are not being watched. Instead of demanding justice, what the West needs to demand is openness. That is the pathway to lasting peace. Unfortunately, what is left of Darfur is a group of people without modern weaponry, without media, and without doctors, waiting to defend themselves against radical militias who wish to destroy them completely. My prayers go out to them, and I truly hope that the ICC is right and that I am the one who is wrong.
Continue to the next Reading: To Arrest or Not to Arrest: Rebecca Hamilton.
- 1 Chris Waluk, “Can the ICC Save Darfur?” Waluk’s World (accessed September 25, 2009).