21st July, 2009
BASHIR TO THE ICC, SAYS CHERIE
(Cherie is one of the few well-known individuals whose surname(s) you never have to use for purposes of identification, which is helpful if you are trying to work out which hat she’s wearing.)
You have to hand it to Cherie Booth-Blair, famous lawyer and wife.
Three times a lawyer, she’s certainly got cojones, as her article in Saturday’s Guardian shows.
It isn’t easy these days putting any article on a Guardian Comment is Free page if it doesn’t, mais naturellement, decry the wicked west.
And criticising the African continent is an even BIGGER no-no.
But to have the gall to mention “war crimes” without including the name of a certain former British prime minister – WELL – that takes The Guardian biscuit! Happily, a technical glitch prevented the usual spew of spleen-venting and missing-the-point bellowing from the habitual peace ‘n’ love hangers ‘n’ floggers of all leaders western, especially one in particular, guilty or not guilty, tried or untried.
Cherie goes for Africa’s position over the present President of Sudan in no apologetic terms in this article co-written with Max du Plessis .
(Picture: Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s president, had an ICC arrest warrant issued against him on 4th March 2009.)
See ICC website – warrant issued for Bashir’s arrest.
‘Today, Pre-Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant for the arrest of Omar Hassan Ahmad Al Bashir, President of Sudan, for war crimes and crimes against humanity. He is suspected of being criminally responsible, as an indirect (co-)perpetrator, for intentionally directing attacks against an important part of the civilian population of Darfur, Sudan, murdering, exterminating, raping, torturing and forcibly transferring large numbers of civilians, and pillaging their property. This is the first warrant of arrest ever issued for a sitting Head of State by the ICC.
Omar Al Bashir’s official capacity as a sitting Head of State does not exclude his criminal responsibility, nor does it grant him immunity against prosecution before the ICC, according to Pre-Trial Chamber I.’
Interestingly, Omar al-Bashir yesterday cancelled a trip to Uganda, seeking to avoid a ‘diplomatic incident’ over ICC arrest warrants, according to this Guardian article published on Monday afternoon. So perhaps ALL African countries are NOT running scared of confronting Bashir.
This followed hard on the heels of Ugandan websites insisting that Uganda was legally bound to arrest Bashir if he landed there. For instance at Uganda’s at New Vision website, Agnes Kabajuni said on Sunday:
‘What is happening in Darfur is genocide and Hassan Ahmad el-Bashir as a principle agent (an indirect co-perpetrator) is indicted for intentionally directing attacks against an important part of the civilian population of Darfur, Sudan. Bashir is principle to the murdering, exterminating, raping, torturing and forcibly transferring large numbers of civilians, and pillaging their property.
Therefore, the Government has an international obligation as a member state of the UN to cooperate in the implementation of the Rome Statute, including arresting Bashir.’
The comparison between the alleged ‘crimes’ unsaid (T Blair) and the unsayable (Bashir) was easy to decipher even for the blindfolded at The Guardian. Cherie was spared the typically hundreds of “you’ve got to be effing jokings” that would undoubtedly have flown into the comment boxes had the tecnical glitch been ironed out at the start. The few that DID get the chance to comment were NOT exactly intellectually up to grasping the HUGE difference between Messrs Bashir and Blair.
The former has been charged, the latter has not.
Until someone is charged with “war crimes … crimes against humanity … illegal invasion” or any other alleged atrocity or misdmeanour, and then tried and found guilty, they are NOT GUILTY of anything.
So even now, Mr Bashir is NOT GUILTY of anything under the law, even though already charged and so far being protected by his continent.
His guilt or innocence was not the issue Ms Booth was raising in the article. It was the willingness or unwillingness of African nations to stand united with an international body, supposedly meant to dole out the same justice to western leaders, if and when there is ever a charge made against any of them.
WOULD THE EU PROTECT (for the sake of argument, you understand) TONY BLAIR?
Do you think the EU would stand against The Hague-based International Criminal Court if it decided that Tony Blair had a case to answer and issued charges for his arrest? If EU countries, even only a few of them, tried to protect him in this way, do you think Mr Blair would escape “justice”.
A rhetorical question (to which the answer is “NO” in case you were struggling with this).
On second thoughts – until this Bashir protection racket the answer might well have been “no”. Now that African countries have decided to thumb their noses at the ICC, things may well have changed for more than just AU leaders suspected of war crimes.
The inability or unwillingness to grasp these simple concepts and how they impact on international bodies is what separates such Guardian commenters as Khaled Diab and Kalian – (the latter still fighting yesterday’s colonial battles) – from sound judgement or even common sense.
But then, they already “KNOW” all about the crimes of their chosen “war criminal”, DON’T THEY?
Don’t they just … rhetorically speaking.
The Sudanese president, Omar el-Bashir, has cancelled his trip to Uganda to avoid a “diplomatic incident” over whether he would be arrested under warrants issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The president has been accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.
Last Monday, ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said Uganda, a signatory of the Rome Statute that established the court, had a legal obligation to arrest the president if he attended a Smart partnership conference, due to begin on Sunday. Reluctant to upset the African Union, which is currently reviewing the allegations made against Bashir before deciding whether to support the ICC warrants, Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, has not given a clear indication of whether his Sudanese counterpart would face arrest if he visited the country.
However, Museveni has apologised to the Sudanese leader for comments made early last week by the Ugandan minister for international relations, Henry Okello Oryem, that Bashir would be arrested if he arrived in Uganda.
“The two presidents spoke on how to solve this issue in a diplomatic manner,” said foreign ministry permanent secretary James Mugume. “The president was sorry that the media made it appear that Bashir would be arrested upon arrival in Kampala.”
It is believed that Bashir will now send another minister to the conference.
By Cherie Booth and Max du Plessis
The African Union’s refusal to help deliver Sudan’s president to the International Criminal Court’s dock is depressing
When the international criminal court began in 2002, there was a widespread hope that those guilty of appalling crimes against humanity would finally be brought to justice. There was a belief too that the very existence of the ICC and its reach would be a brake on the behaviour of other warlords and dictators, increasing protection for hundreds of millions of people.
Those hopes have been badly dented by the African Union‘s decision earlier this month to withdraw co-operation with the ICC. In a profoundly depressing move, the AU summit in Libya resolved that its members would not arrest or extradite any African figure it indicted. This defiance follows complaints by some African states that the ICC was a “western court” that focuses on prosecuting Africans.
The immediate beneficiary of this decision – and the reason for it – is Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir. He is wanted by the ICC in connection with charges that his government and army have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. The text of the AU resolution effectively requests AU states not to arrest Bashir if he is in their country, nor to allow the ICC to conduct investigations on their territory.
The truly disheartening part of this resolution is that it is backed not just by those countries who have opposed the ICC from the start but also by those – the majority on the African continent – who have signed the Rome treaty. It is also a damaging reversal on their position a month ago. Then, at a meeting in Addis Ababa, bullying from Sudan and other hardline opponents of the ICC was resisted. Instead they declared the need for “unflinching commitment” to the ICC and “to combating impunity”.
Their statement signalled that the days of African states turning a blind eye to appalling crimes elsewhere on the continent – out of some mistaken solidarity – have gone. They talked about the need for “unflinching commitment” to the ICC and “to combating impunity”. It was a cool-headed response to those pushing for African countries to withdraw, or at least consider withdrawing, from the Rome treaty.
Following the Libya summit, this welcome commitment has now been badly undermined. In the last few days, however, some African countries have refused to drop their commitment to justice and human rights. At the forefront is Botswana, which expressed its opposition to the AU stance and re-affirmed its support for the ICC.
Foreign minister Phandu Skelemani said Botswana would “fully co-operate with the ICC in the arrest and transfer of the president of Sudan to the ICC”. This week, Uganda too has spoken of its commitment to the ICC and determination to meet its legal obligations. But this only puts into stark relief the conduct of other leading African nations who are signatories to the ICC and are now ready to ignore their legal obligations.
The position of South Africa is particularly important. This is not just because the country can be proud of the leadership role it played in setting up the ICC. It is also because it is one of only three states in Africa to have incorporated the ICC statute’s provisions into national law.
At the time, this seemed a significant step that showed the country’s commitment to international criminal justice. With ICC judges confirming the arrest warrant for president Bashir in early May, it was presumably a big factor in his decision not to visit South Africa for president Jacob Zuma’s inauguration later that month. It was heartening then to see that Bashir – having weighed his liberty in the balance – opted not to be among the guests joining the celebrations in Pretoria.The rule of law had an effect, if only on Bashir’s travel plans.
The ICC is, of course, in its infancy. Constructive criticism of its work is important to its maturity and development. But the AU’s statement is not about helping the ICC work better. It is simply to protect someone who stands accused of the most serious crimes against humanity. It has the potential both to undermine the ICC and its important work on behalf of hundreds of thousands of African victims.
The ICC came into existence during Kofi Annan’s time as UN secretary-general. He remains a passionate supporter, and has shown little patience for those Africans who see it as a western court. He warned recently that there was “little hope of preventing the worst crimes known to mankind, or reassuring those who live in fear of their recurrence, if African leaders stop supporting justice for the most heinous crimes just because one of their own stands accused”.
He is right. As the dust settles around the AU meeting, it is disheartening to see politicians showing their solidarity with the Bashirs of the world rather than with the victims of mass rapes, murders and mutilations. In the interests of the rule of law and victims’ rights, it is to be hoped that the leadership shown by Botswana will begin to gain support.
Cherie Booth QC is a barrister at the Matrix Chambers. Max du Plessis is a senior research associate at the Institute for Security Studies, Pretoria
NOTE: The International Criminal Court (the ICC) is NOT recognised in Sudan.
Sudan Tribune – 20th July, 2009: Botswana & Chad, and seemingly Uganda have broken ranks with the other AU members on the present ‘reprieve’ for Bashir.
Sudan Tribune – July 5, 2009: ‘The government of Botswana criticized the decision by the African Union (AU) granting a continent-wide reprieve to the Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir from arrest pursuant to the International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant.
On Friday, the leaders of 30 African countries that have ratified the Rome Statute issued a resolution in Sirte, Libya announcing that they will not honor their obligations under the convention relating to apprehension of ICC indicted individuals.
The Sudanese foreign minister spokesperson Ali Al-Sadiq said that Bashir is now free to travel to any African country without fear of arrest.
Al-Sadiq further said the decision is binding to all African countries without having to wait for the parliaments to ratify the resolution.
But the Botswanaian foreign minister Phandu Skelemani made surprise statements suggesting that the resolution was forced upon its members
- Amnesty International – African Union refuses to co-operate with Bashir Arrest warrant
- Amnesty International calls on UN Security Council to support ICC over Darfur
Sierra Leone: Sierra Leone court monitoring programme, SLCMP, has condemned the APC government for backing the stance of other Africa nations in denouncing the call of the international criminal court, ICC to arrest and extradite Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir in Libya.
Guardian February 2009 report as Bashir was about to be indicted. It is worth noting which countries are on which side on this issue.
“Judges in The Hague prepare to indict Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s president – putting western governments on collision course with Africa, China and Russia.”
“Britain, France and the US are up against a united front of African and Muslim countries, backed by China and Russia, over the imminent indictment of Sudan‘s president, Omar al-Bashir, for war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Darfur.”