The International Criminal Court, or ICC, has issued an arrest warrant for Sudan’s President, Omar al-Bashir, on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes. This is good news. There was never any doubt that the wholesale attacks in Darfur against civilians carried out by janjaweed militias were directed and engineered from the presidential palace in Khartoum, and the court in many ways has only acknowledged the obvious.
What may be counter-intuitive to a lot of people: the warrants should make peace in Sudan more likely, not less. Why? As we saw with the earlier international indictments against Liberian President Charles Taylor and President Slobodan Milosevic in the former Yugoslavia, steps by the international community in support of accountability begin to change the fundamental political dynamics within a country while pushing the broader international community to actually resolve the situation.
Bashir may not end up in The Hague next week or next month, but the odds are good that he will eventually. Indeed, just look at the last week for international justices: senior rebel leaders who conducted heinous crimes in Sierra Leone were convicted for their acts; the prosecution team rested its case against Charles Taylor; and now the warrant has come down against Bashir. I was on a press call with David Crane earlier this morning (David was the founding Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone), and he rightly observed that over the last ten years, “we have moved incredibly, but fitfully, to face down the beast of impunity.”