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Peace vs. Justice in Sudan

February 6, 2009

This man is a criminal but does it matter?

As the world waits for the International Criminal Court to announce whether it will issue an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Bashir, the relief and human rights community are split.

Anti-genocide advocacy and think tanks such as the Enough Project and the Save Darfur Coalition have lead the effort to galvanize the Obama Administration’s support for a potential arrest warrant for Bashir, or at least ensure the Administration won’t block it in the Security Council. (This was always highly unlikely given that Susan Rice, who constantly notes her regret that the U.S. didn’t do more to stop the Rwandan genocide, is at the helm of U.S.-U.N. relations).

Meanwhile, InterAction, an umbrella group for relief and development organizations, and Africa expert Alex de Waal argue that an indictment could lead to a spike in violence, especially directed at civilians, aid workers and U.N. peacekeepers.

Former Clinton African affairs adviser, John Prendergast, says that the international response to the indictment is key. “The response of the [Sudanese] government is completely in play right now. It will be largely dependent on the international reaction,” Prendergast notes.

“Part of the reason there is no resolution in Sudan is because there has been no accountability,” he said. “If we take accountability off the table again, they will put that in their pocket and continue with their policy of divide and destroy.”

What do you think? Will an indictment of Sudanese President Bashir lead to increased violence against Darfuri civilians, relief workers, U.N. peacekeepers and a closing down of the humanitarian space? Or could the international communities’ response ensure an indictment, arrest and prosecution of Mr. Bashir without terrible humanitarian consequences?

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