By Alexis Herr
The International Criminal Court (ICC) made history when it issued its first arrest warrant for genocide exactly three years ago today. The ICC accused Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Three years later, Bashir still holds his seat as President of Sudan. Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Fatou Bensouda expressed her disappointment to the Security Council on 5 June 2013 and urged them to take greater action to hold war criminals accountable. She pressed them to adopt measures to ensure Bashir is held responsible for actions that led to the murder of hundreds of thousands of Darfuris and the displacement of millions.
Part of the challenge to prosecuting Bashir stems from the fact that Sudan does not belong to the Rome Statute, thus leaving Sudan outside of the ICC’s jurisdiction (link to Rome Statue of the ICC: http://untreaty.un.org/cod/icc/statute/99_corr/cstatute.htm). The UN Security Council (UNSC), however, referred the Darfur case to the ICC in 2005, which brought the court to investigate and levy symbolic but hollow charges against Sudan’s long-standing president. When Bensouda addressed the Security Council last month she explained that the ICC has done all within its power to confront Bashir’s crimes, but now they are waiting for the Security Council to follow through and apply greater pressure.
Countries belonging to the Rome Statute have also come under attack for allowing Bashir to visit their countries (for a list see www.bashirwatch.org). Kenya, for example, originally allowed Bashir free access up until 28 November 2011 when a Kenyan court vowed to arrest the Sudanese leader if he visited. If only other member states would do the same! China’s decision to grant Bashir entry on 28 June 2011 received intense criticism given the country’s status as a member of the UNSC.
It is frustrating and outrageous that Bashir continues to head Sudan. The international community knows exactly where he is and we have empirical evidence of his violence. Yet Bashir continues to enjoy freedoms that millions of Darfuris he turned into refugees do not. Maybe to ensure and encourage the arrest of Bashir, the ICC and UNSC should place a bounty on individuals charged for genocide. I can’t help but wonder, however, if to do so would reflect negatively on the motivations behind peace. If we have to use money to compel others to hold genocide perpetrators accountable, would that weaken the significance of bringing him to trial?