Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
July 14, 2008

Dubious Sudan ICC Indictment

The prosecutor at the International Criminal Court has asked a panel of judges to issue an arrest warrant for the Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. Bashir is accused of 'criminal responsibility' for 'genocide.'

Alex de Waal and Julie Flint, who know a bit or two of that conflict, find this to be wrong. They believe that this move will have no positive effect on the conflict and that a backlash from it is likely to hit those who are already victims. In a recent Guardian op-ed de Waal and Flint explain:

The immediate dangers are easy to foresee. The very people the ICC seeks to defend - the survivors of the Darfur war - are the most vulnerable to whatever steps the regime takes in its fightback.

The UN peacekeeping force in Darfur is already almost at a standstill. A few more restrictions - or deaths - would paralyse it. Humanitarian aid that feeds two million displaced people is dependent on a UN airlift that can be choked off at any moment. Popular demonstrations of support for the ICC could be met with lethal force, prompting a response from the armed rebel supporters who control many of the displaced camps.

The writers do not mention the real issue here. There is oil under the sands of Darfur and the 'west' wants regime change in Khartoum or the alternative of splitting off Darfur from Sudan to have free access to its resources.

Unlike de Waal and Flint assume, there is no real interest at the ICC or within 'western' politics for the plight of the people in Darfur.

This is a resource conflict on two scales.

For the people on the ground the main issue is water. Lack of rain forced nomading pastoralist from their desertifying grounds towards settled farm land.

On the international level the main issue is oil. China has good relations with Sudan and is developing oil fields in the Sudanese south. It is now helping with seismic pre-exploration work in Darfur.

Bipartisan U.S. (and 'western') policy is to have control over hydrocarbon resources where- and whenever possible. As the regime in Sudan has not so friendly relation with the west it must be changed or, as an alternative, Darfur must be split off Sudan.

In its five years of operation the International Criminal Court has opened four investigations and issued twelve arrest warrants. All of those cases were in Africa. Is that by coincidence? Wars of aggression, suppression of opposition and human rights violations also happen on other continents. It is not the that Africa is somehow a special case. But it seems that the ICC has a special interest for that part of the world.

Why is that the case?

Posted by b on July 14, 2008 at 19:29 UTC | Permalink


Brian Eno, The Observer, Sunday August 17, 2003

When I first visited Russia, in 1986, I made friends with a musician whose father had been Brezhnev's personal doctor. One day we were talking about life during 'the period of stagnation' - the Brezhnev era. 'It must have been strange being so completely immersed in propaganda,' I said.

'Ah, but there is the difference. We knew it was propaganda,' replied Sacha.

Posted by: jony_b_cool | Jul 15 2008 2:50 utc | 1

Of course, the juicy part of this accusation is that the statistical method used to calculate the number of deaths in Darfur, and which must be being used to justify the notion of genocide, is the same one as produced the figure of 600,000 deaths in Iraq, and which pro rata is now reaching a million or more. If Bashir needs to be arraigned, then so must Bush. If Bashir can be condemned, so can Bush. It's the law and there's no choice. Bashir is safe in Sudan, Bush is safe in the US. But they shouldn't travel abroad.

Posted by: Alex | Jul 15 2008 10:26 utc | 2

Aux Barricades! The International Criminal Court is accusing the President of Sudan of being a war criminal. Will wonders never cease? To the guillotine with that Muslim! Ah! And we must hunt down Bin Laden for bombing US wedding parties while we are at it. The comedy of European and American imperialists committing grotesque war crimes over and over again, torturing, maiming, destroying, killing poorly armed civilians in many parts of the world with utter impunity: they get to go scot free, of course. But if any Muslim even fights back like say, the Palestinians, they are declared terrorists and outlaws. This farce will play to the bitter end when the Chinese end up executing our own leaders for war crimes.

Go read Elaine Meinel Supkis full take on this at the Culture of Life blog.

I can't agree with Elaine on everything (in particular, she can't get her brain around 911) - but she is a tour de force. She is either one of the few sane people left on this rock - or I'm as batty as she is.

Posted by: DM | Jul 15 2008 10:55 utc | 3

The obvious consequences of the indictment: UN prepares to pull staff from Darfur

The United Nations prepared on Tuesday to fly non-essential staff from Darfur as supporters of Sudan President Omar al-Beshir planned protests in Khartoum to denounce the world court prosecutor's call for him to be arrested for alleged war crimes.
The African Union-United Nations peacekeeping mission announced the staff "relocations" as Sudan promised it would do its utmost to protect peacekeepers and humanitarian workers, but said there could be no security guarantee.

Sudanese and Western officials have widely predicted that the ICC move -- seen by many in Sudan as an assault on national sovereignty -- could spark violent relatiation against Western embassies and UN peacekeepers.
A UN official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the move, ordered by UNAMID force commander Martin Agwai, affected only about 1,800 police and 1,000 civilians who are to leave the country temporarily in coming days.

Posted by: b | Jul 15 2008 13:11 utc | 4

No doubt they would like to indict some US war criminals too, but sad to say we did not join up in Rome. So you will just have to think of something else to stop us from ass-raping, dick-slicing, flesh-pulping, and drowning random wogs.

Posted by: ...---... | Jul 15 2008 14:55 utc | 5

but sad to say we did not join up in Rome

I think we're all aware that the US did not "join up". There are ways of getting round that kind of problem, as European prosecutors have been showing.

Posted by: Alex | Jul 15 2008 15:46 utc | 6

uganda's daily monitor: Prof. Mamdani criticises ICC warrants of arrest

Renown Ugandan professor and African Union advisor on Darfur, Mahmood Mamdani, has said the International Criminal Court’s decision to charge President Bashir will undermine the political process designed to achieve a settlement of the conflict in Darfur.

“By criminalising the leadership of Sudan, the ICC (International Criminal Court) will prevent it from exploring peaceful alternatives,” he said.

Speaking on the sidelines of an NGO meeting on Darfur at the Imperial Royale Hotel yesterday Mamdani said he hoped the African continent will unite against the court’s Sudan decision.

Prof. Mamdani said if the ICC was around in the early 90’s to issue a criminal warrant against South African strongman FW de Clerk as the president responsible for apartheid as a crime against humanity, there would have been no talks at Klempton Park and no end to apartheid except through a military victory.

He said ICC Prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo has sacrificed peace and reconciliation in a blind pursuit of criminal justice. “Let us hope that Africa will unite and say that this is not the way forward,” said Prof. Mamdani at the meeting of the International Refugees’ Rights Initiative workshop discussing Darfur.

Posted by: b real | Jul 15 2008 19:34 utc | 7

I certainly hope so, because the US natives clearly cannot get their tribal rulers under control.

Posted by: ...---... | Jul 16 2008 2:24 utc | 8

inner city press, blogging @ the UN, writes today

ICC's Ocampo Defends His Africa-Only Focus, But Competence and Strategy in Question

UNITED NATIONS, July 17 -- International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told the Press on Thursday, "Because I respect African leaders, I invite them to refer to me the case, and they did it." While dodging questions about his request for an arrest warrant against Sudan's president Omar Al-Bashir, Ocampo responded to Inner City Press' question about why all of his prosecutions so far have been in Africa, and not for example in Colombia, Myanmar or North Korea. He responded that he visited Colombia last November, and will again "next month," to monitor national proceedings. Those proceedings have offered a form of immunity to government-backed paramilitary forces, but apparently Ocampo is satisfied with that. Perhaps, then, Sudan should have put its two indictees Ahmad Harun and Ali Kushayb on trial, then offered then a slap on the wrist. Behind the scenes, Ocampo has been telling Ambassadors of Permanent Five members of the Security Council, and some of these have off the record been telling the press, that if Al-Bashir now turns over the two indictees, the prosecution against him might go away or be put on hold. Ocampo's prosecutorial strategy -- reversing the normal approach of trying to turn underlings against their boss -- and his performance are both subject to question. But on Thursday few answers were provided.

on the case in the congo,

Inner City Press asked Ocampo about both the Thomas Lubango case, which has been suspended due to his office's failure to show its evidence to the defense lawyers, and about the unacted-on arrest warrant against Joseph Kony of Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. ... On Lubanga, Ocampo said "the problem was how to disclose some documents." First, providing discovery material to the defense is a basic principle of fair prosecution. Second, Inner City Press is told by sources inside the UN Secretariat and its Congo peacekeeping mission, MONUC, that they never expected Ocampo to base his prosecution on the hearsay material they provided him, but he did. Now that material must be disclosed, and they are unhappy. Neither they nor the Western members of the Permanent Five, however, will criticize Ocampo in public. That would be politically incorrect.

Ocampo, however, drapes himself in the role of the last of the just, an objective man, a slave to justice. Asked why all his prosecutions have been in Africa, he said, "I cannot respect geographical balance, I cannot respect gender balance." ... But how can it be that a court set up to try genocide and child soldier recruitment, among other high crimes, is focused only on Africa? Ocampo, and later in his defense the foreign minister of Costa Rica Bruno Stagno Ugarte, claim this is because the presidents of Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo have referred cases to Ocampo. First, Ocampo admitted that he invited them to make specific referrals, to make a showing of his respect for African leaders. Second, this has created a conflict of interest or bias, in which he has not for example investigated or at least prosecuted crimes of the Ugandan army, only the LRA. Ocampo never answered the question about Joseph Kony, who meets opening with UN officials like Joachim Chissano. Perhaps there was not enough media interest to keep Ocampo focused on the LRA case, or actually succeeding in the case of Lubanga.

In Kinshasa last month, Security Council Ambassadors emphasized to Inner City Press that Congolese president Joseph Kabila had praised them and the ICC for the prospection of Lubanga and especially Jean-Pierre Bemba. But Bemba was Kabila's main opponent in the last elections. Even in Congo, the ICC is arguably being used politically. These questions should be answered and not dodged.

Posted by: b real | Jul 17 2008 19:21 utc | 9

Posted by: b real | Jul 18 2008 4:35 utc | 10

a late dispatch on thursday, inner city press was very critical of a work-in-progress documentary on the ICC

A film promoting the International Criminal Court, a work in progress, was screened Thursday at the UN, with ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo prominently in attendance, slumped down in the front row. The movie, the working title of which is "The Reckoning," ... does not mention, however, that the Lubango prosecution has been put on hold because Ocampo neglected to show information to the defense lawyers, as is required. And while the version screened on Thursday ends with Ocampo's press conference earlier in the week announcing his request for an arrest warrant against Sudan's Omar Al-Bashir, the movie does not include any of the critique or questioning of Ocampo's move, which is widespread in the Africa Union, the Arab League and even anti-Bashir non-governmental organizations.

Inner City Press asked the film's producers if they intend to include critical voices, for example those pointing out that since the five permanent members of the Security Council have vetoes, their acts could never be referred to the ICC for investigation, much less prosecution. On the question of including this perspective, produce Pam Yates answered, "Probably not." She said the film is to impart "basic knowledge to a general audience." But if it includes none of the critical or questioning voices, is it credible? Is it more than propaganda?

One of Ms. Yates' two co-producers, Paco de Onis ... responded to Inner City Press' question about all of the ICC's prosecutions being in Africa by saying that since African presidents were part of the request, the actions were "not initiated by the ICC." But earlier in the day, Ocampo admitted that he selected Northern Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and then asked the presidents of those countries to refer the cases to him. So the ICC did initiate the action -- but by looking to the presidents as ground-cover, the ICC has not evenhandedly considered the behavior of Uganda's army, or of DRC's president Joseph Kabila.

and, in a footnote,

At Ocampo's press conference Thursday, he was asked about the fall-out of a sexual harassment case against him, in the course of which the ICC paid damages to a complainant. Ocampo was dismissive, saying "check with human resources" until the moderator pointedly moved to another question. Subsequent inquiry by Inner City Press has unearthed the actual judgment, which was for Ocampo unceremoniously firing a whistleblower. Upon review, Ocampo was faulted for having participated in the decision-making to fire the whistleblower. Not only backpay, but "moral damages" of 25,000 Euros was ordered, apparently to be paid not by Ocampo but by the ICC itself, in a decision that came out on July 9.

from a ny sun article today
Allegations Against Prosecutor May Harm Bashir Genocide Case

A former aide, Christian Palme of Sweden, who accused Mr. Ocampo of sexual misconduct against a female South African journalist, says a tape-recording that was presented to the court bolsters his claims. Mr. Ocampo, according to Mr. Palme, confiscated the car keys of the journalist and refused to return them to her unless she had sexual relations with him.

"I fully stand by my initial allegation," Mr. Palme told The New York Sun in an e-mail message yesterday. He wrote that he first heard of the case from a colleague with whom the journalist had confided, and that there was additional evidence, including "a fragmented tape recording" that the friend made days after the March 2005 incident.

"In this recording, where it can be clearly heard that the reporter is crying desperately, she confirms that she had sexual intercourse with Moreno-Ocampo, that Moreno-Ocampo took her keys and that she had to consent to sexual intercourse to be able to leave his hotel suite," Mr. Palme wrote in his e-mail message, adding that Mr. Ocampo "has never denied the veracity of this recording."

When three ICC judges investigated the case, the unidentified female journalist denied the story, as did Mr. Ocampo, according to the London Telegraph. The case was dismissed for lack of evidence, according to the newspaper, which first reported on the affair Wednesday. Based on the ruling, Mr. Ocampo fired Mr. Palme last year.
..a Geneva-based administrative tribunal of the International Labor Organization awarded Mr. Palme $40,000 in "moral damages" and $200,000 in compensation, saying he had no reason to suspect that the colleague who had brought the case to his attention was not telling the truth.

Posted by: b real | Jul 18 2008 15:39 utc | 11

mamdani: Some questions for the prosecutor

The conflict in Darfur began as a civil war in 1987-89, before Al Bashir and his group came to power. According to an academic observer, it was marked by indiscriminate killing and mass slaughter. The language of genocide was first employed in that conflict.

According to the Fur representative at the reconciliation conference in El Fasher on 29 May 1989, “the aim is a total Holocaust and no less than the complete annihilation of the Fur people and all things Fur. …

This conflict is about their attempt at dividing people of Dar Fur region into ‘Arabs’ and ‘Blacks’ (Zurga), with superiority attributed to the former.” In response, the Arab representative traced the origin of the conflict to “the end of the 70s when the Fur raised a slogan which claimed that Dar Fur is for the Fur ‘Dar Fur for Fur’. …

The Arabs were depicted as foreigners who should be evicted from this area of Dar Fur. To give substance to this slogan, Fur ‘militia’ forces were trained …”

The Prosecutor has uncritically taken on the point of view of one side in this conflict, a side that was speaking of a “Holocaust” before Bashir came to power. He goes on to speak of “new settlers” in today’s Darfur, suggesting that he has internalized this partisan perspective.

The Prosecutor speaks in ignorance of history: “In Darfur, AL BASHIR promoted the idea of a polarization between tribes aligned with him, whom he called ‘Arabs’, and the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa, whom he called ‘Zurgas’ or ‘Africans’.”

The racialization of identities in Darfur did not begin with Al Bashir, it was already prevalent in the 1987-89 civil war, and its roots lie in the British colonial period.

As early as the late 1920s, the British tried to organize two confederations in Darfur: one ‘Arab’, the other ‘Black’ (Zurga).

Racialised identities were incorporated in the census and provided the frame for government policy.

The Prosecutor focuses on two consequences of the conflict in Darfur: ethnic cleansing through land grabbing, and terror in the camps.

He attributes both to Al Bashir. But the land grabbing has been a consequence of three different if related causes.

The first is environmental degradation, leading, according to UNEP, to the expansion of the desert by 100 kilometres in four decades, pushing large sections of the Arab and non-Arab population of North Darfur further south to more fertile Fur and Masalit lands.

This, in turn, led to a conflict between tribes with homelands and those without homelands, as the latter found themselves without sources of living.

The imperative of sheer survival in part explains the unprecedented brutality of the violence in every successive war since 1987-89. The third cause is the brutal counter-insurgency unleashed by the Al Bashir regime in 2003-04.

In his eagerness to build a case, the Prosecutor glosses over even recent history since 2003. The mass slaughter took place mainly in 2003-04.

The Prosecutor claims that the period since has seen attrition by other means in the camps: “He did not need bullets. He used other weapons: rape, hunger and fear.”

This flies in the face of evidence from multiple sources that the death rate in the camps came down to around 200 a month from early 2005, less than in South Sudan or in the poor suburbs of Khartoum.

In his haste to build a case, the Prosecutor has perhaps understandably glossed over all evidence that would tend to undermine that case. But we must not.

The point of the Prosecutor’s case is to connect all consequences in Darfur to a single cause: Al Bashir. The ICC website says Moreno-Ocampo told journalists in The Hague: “What happened in Darfur is a consequence of Beshir’s will.”

The strangest part of the Prosecutor’s application is its tendency to justify mass violence based on motive: “His pretext was a ‘counterinsurgency’. His intent was genocide. … The Government has the right to use force to control its territory, but it cannot use genocide as a means to do so.”

The next sentence distinguishes between two kinds of civilians, those who can be a legitimate target of government violence and those who cannot: “Al Bashir’s forces forcefully targeted civilians who were not participants in any conflict.”

All internal armed groups in Darfur – whether rebels or pro-government – have developed out of tribal militias. A tribal militia is akin to an armed citizenry: who then is a ‘participant’ and who not?

The implication that it is just to target civilians who ‘participate’ makes one wonder: who is the prosecutor trying to protect?

Which wanton violence against civilians does he think is justified? The distinction between external war, internal counter-insurgency and genocide is increasingly spurious. The history of modern war shows that all three have involved wanton mass violence against civilians.

To use the distinction to justify one kind of mass violence by demonizing another is to use it for political ends.

There took place a mass slaughter in Darfur in 2003-04.

It was in large part a consequence of a counter-insurgency, but that cannot justify it. Its perpetrators should be held accountable, but when and how is a political decision that cannot belong to the Prosecutor of ICC.

The course of the war in South Sudan suggests that the need to end impunity is not the only relevant consideration in how to end conflicts. The agreement concluded to end that war combined impunity for all participants with reform.

The same was true of the settlement that ended apartheid in South Africa. Had the ICC been involved in either instance, it is doubtful that there would be peace in either case.

Posted by: b real | Jul 19 2008 2:47 utc | 12

commentary from a former president of médecins sans frontières

The ICC's Bashir Indictment: Law Against Peace

Apart from the judicial inflation to which it gives rise, the major problem with this perception of armed conflicts as "genocides" (the former Yugoslavia, Sudan, and undoubtedly more to come) is that it removes them from history and politics, in order to subject them instead to a purely moral judgment. To qualify a war as genocidal is to leave the terrain of politics, of its relations of force, of its compromises and contingencies, in order to situate oneself in some metaphysical beyond in which the only conflict is between Good and Evil: fanatics versus moderates, blood-thirsty hordes versus innocent civilians. That massacres have been perpetrated by the Sudanese regime within the context of counterinsurgency operations, that a strategy of terror has been employed by the army and militias -- these are proven facts. That there has been an intention on the part of the regime to exterminate the peoples of Darfur -- this, however, is mere speculation. If it was the case, how is to one understand the fact that two million Darfuris have sought refuge around the principal army garrisons of their province? How is one to understand the fact that one million of them live in Khartoum, where they have never been bothered during the entire course of the war? How is one to understand the fact that an enormous humanitarian apparatus has been put in place that has permitted thousands of lives to be saved? Can one seriously imagine Tutsis seeking refuge in areas controlled by the Rwandan army in 1994 or Jews seeking refuge with the Wehrmacht in 1943?

It is true that during his statement to the U.N. Security Council on June 5, the prosecutor went so far as to describe the refugee camps as sites where the genocide was being perpetrated -- which is, strictly speaking, insane. Such episodes of intellectual incontinence are hardly the first as concerns Darfur and the case of Darfur is, of course, not the only one that provokes them -- though it provokes a great number. But with such arguments used to support such an accusation, the legal characterization of events and their political comprehension have gone completely separate ways -- to the point that the former impedes the latter. Under such circumstances, one can wonder what exactly is the purpose of international law.

Posted by: b real | Jul 26 2008 8:04 utc | 13

Posted by: b real | Aug 1 2008 4:28 utc | 14

I wonder how come the US threatened to punished 35 countries for joining the ICC by cutting its financial help to those nations. The purpose of this is to protect the Americans solders, citizens from being subject of the ICC. Now The United States is simply supporting the ICC in the case of Sudan. Yes, it is oil rather than the poor citizens of Darfour. That led the led the United States to this decision.
In the other hand Mr. Ocampo's behavior with the African journalist are a clear rape case, his termination of Christian PALME, and the decision of the international labor court against ICC due to the acts of Mr. Ocampo, clearly Define Ocampo as abusing his authority. Thus his trustworthy as prosecutor for global court should be reconsidered.
We the Sudanese will not allow Mr. Ocampo to wag his dog tail through Sudan. Mr. Ocampo and those behind him were liars and looser.

Posted by: ibrahim alomdah | Aug 3 2008 12:20 utc | 15

Posted by: b real | Aug 5 2008 3:41 utc | 16

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