My name is Patrick and I am a Programs and Membership intern this summer at the UNA-GB. A Boston native, I am currently an undergraduate studying History and International Relations at Tufts University.
On Monday, July 12, the International Criminal Court made international and judicial history when it officially charged current Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir with three counts of genocide.
Based in the Dutch city of the Hague, the ICC had previously issued an arrest warrant for al-Bashir on five counts of crimes against humanity and two counts of war crimes in May 2009, but the announcement of yesterday’s arrest warrant is the first to specifically reference “genocide” and is a dramatic change from the Court’s assertion of just over a year ago that there was no sufficient evidence to support such a charge. He is the first sitting head of state to ever have been indicted by the ICC and the first charged with genocide.
The conflict in Darfur, controversially and contentiously categorized as state-sponsored genocide, has been raging since February 2003 and continues despite a peace treaty signed in February earlier this year. Ethnic conflict between the North’s Afro-Arabs and the South’s black Africans, who have claimed to be systematically oppressed by the Sudanese government, has led to a UN-estimate of over 300,000 deaths and close to 3 million displaced in the western-most region of Darfur. As the violence has increased and the number of refugees has grown, neighboring countries such as Chad and Eritrea become implicated as well, allegedly throwing their support behind the many black African factions. Reports of murder and rape coming out of the region have been widespread over the past half-decade, despite the involvement of the African Union, the United Nations, and numerous international human rights groups.
President al-Bashir is accused of fostering traditional North-South ethnic tensions to enable his Arab-led government to successfully carry out genocide against Sudan’s black community under the veil of domestic strife and civil war. The new ICC warrant claims, “There are reasonable grounds to believe that (Omar al-Bashir) acted with specific intent to destroy in part the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups” in Darfur, which includes “genocide by killing, genocide by causing serious bodily or mental harm and genocide by deliberately inflicting on each target group conditions of life calculated to bring about the group’s physical destruction.”
Whereas the International Court of Justice, the principal judiciary arm of the United Nations, handles cases involving states and national governments, the ICC, legally independent but financially and politically affiliated with the UN, claims individuals jurisdiction over individuals. A comparison of the two organizations can be found here.
The ICC came to fruition with the ratification of the Rome Treaty in 2002 (which the United States both voted against and has since stated it does not intend on becoming a member – see our affiliate USA for the International Criminal Court). While the ICC includes all of Europe and most of Latin American and Africa as its members, it does not have the support of most of the Middle East, nor four of the world’s largest and most influential states – India, China, Russia, and the United States. As Sudan having never ratified the Rome Treaty, Al-Bashir does not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC and refuses to stand trial.
A lecture on war crimes and international justice sponsored by the UNA-GB is being planned for the late fall, and we are extremely interesting in engaging with the international community and the people of Boston on the issue.
Be sure to stay informed and check back soon for more information.