Bashir warrant the right step against impunity

March 5, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 6 – The International Center for Policy and Conflict (ICPC) welcomes the indictment of President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan by the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Court’s decision to issue an arrest warrant against President Bashir is a major step toward justice for the victims of Darfur.

The decision speaks directly to those who think that official capacity can protect them from prosecution for atrocities committed under their watch. Kenya needs to take note of these latest developments seriously in the light of the Waki report recommendations and also the preliminary findings and recommendations of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extra Judicial Killings.

ICPC is extremely excited by the fact the ICC made it clear that heads of state are not beyond the reach of the law. The court indeed communicated a message across the world that government leaders can and should be held accountable for their actions.

Kenya’s top political leadership, the police force accused of extra judicial killings and the perpetrators of the post election violence who have been obstructing establishment of an effective, impartial and credible Special Tribunal for Kenya have to understand that global justice has changed and it is only a matter of time before it catches up with them either here in Kenya or outside.

Instead of wasting public resources engaging in futile exercises of denial and public relations or stage-managing demonstrations in certain political constituencies, Kenyan authorities and politicians need to drop short sighted tactics that would not help in anything and focus on the real issue of stemming impunity. Kenyans should not be caught in traps of detractors without cause to subvert justice.

A three-judge panel issued the warrants at the request of the court’s prosecutor, charging President Bashir with crimes against humanity and war crimes for actions in Sudan’s Darfur region. The United Nations Security Council in 2005 referred the Darfur situation to the court’s prosecutor for investigation. In July 2008, the prosecutor requested an arrest warrant against President Bashir. The judges, rejecting one part of the prosecutor’s request, decided against charging President Bashir with genocide.

The indictment is a necessary step toward peace in Darfur and also reaffirms the victims’ desire for justice.  Prosecuting Bashir will show that Sudan’s government cannot evade responsibility for its actions. Sudan’s government has wrongly argued in the past that actions by the ICC would undermine the Darfur peace process and put victims in greater jeopardy. 

On the contrary, there has been no serious peace process in Darfur for the Khartoum government is continuously frustrating any peace initiative. Africa governments have not either helped in piling pressure against President Bashir for a genuine peace process in Darfur.  Therefore President Bashir’s indictment offers a great opportunity for the first real progress in the Darfur peace process.

(Ndung’u Wainaina is the Executive Director, International Centre for Policy and Conflict)


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