Arab leaders back Sudan
- Arab leaders back 'wanted' Bashir
Arab leaders have concluded their annual summit by showing their support for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir who is wanted for war crimes.
The Arab League said it rejected the International Criminal Court's decision to issue a warrant for his arrest.
President Bashir had earlier spoken at the summit in Qatar, and won strong support from his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad.
They were among 17 heads of state in Qatar, but some seats remained empty.
The most notable absentee was President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt. Correspondents say he is unhappy with Qatar's stance during the recent Gaza conflict.
# 17 out of 22 heads of state attending
# President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt is absent
# Sudan's president is flouting an ICC arrest warrant to attend
# UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is attending
# Iran is not a member of the organisation
Meanwhile, the BBC's Katya Adler, in Qatar, says earlier reports that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi had stormed out of the Arab League summit were incorrect.
But, our correspondent says, Mr Gaddafi used the floor to settle old scores, criticising Saudi King Abdullah and appearing to reignite a public spat he had at the 2003 Arab summit.
At Monday's opening session he called the king a British product and an American ally.
But he added that he now considered their "problem" over and was ready to reconcile, drawing applause from the other delegates.
The two leaders appeared to bury the hatchet with a 30 minute face-to-face meeting on the sidelines of the summit, reports said.
'Massacres and atrocities'
At the end of the summit a joint statement by the Arab League said: "We stress our solidarity with Sudan and our rejection of the ICC (International Criminal Court) decision."
Earlier in the day, Syrian President Assad said those who had "committed massacres and atrocities in Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon" should be arrested first.
Many African states, along with Sudan's key ally China, have called for the ICC proceedings to be suspended, arguing they will hamper efforts to bring peace to Darfur.
President Bashir attended the summit to thank the leaders for their support.
Qatar has not signed the ICC charter, which obliges a member state to arrest those indicted by the court when they enter its territory.
In his opening remarks, Syria's President Assad also spoke about Israel - saying the Arab world had no "real partner in the peace process".
He said this had been demonstrated by the recent Israeli election, with Benjamin Netanyahu due to become prime minister at the head of a right-wing coalition.
Implications of the Absence of Genocide Charges for Bashir
20 March 2009
The ICC prosecutor's request for an indictment of Omar al-Bashir charged the Sudanese president with three distinct categories of crimes: war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. The Pre-Trial Chamber of the Court, however, granted an indictment only
on the grounds of crimes against humanity and war crimes, stating that "the material provided by the Prosecution in support of its application for a warrant of arrest failed to provide reasonable grounds to believe that the Government of Sudan acted with specific
intent to destroy, in whole or in part, the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa groups."2
The allegation of genocide has prompted great controversy in the Darfur case, and the Pre-Trial Chamber's ruling will undoubtedly contribute further to this. While an international legal consensus appears to be emerging that the violence in Darfur does not constitute genocide, the political use of the term by certain advocacy groups is unlikely to diminish as a result of the Pre-Trial Chamber's ruling. The schism between legal and popular use of "genocide" may ultimately pose a serious problem for the advocacy
movement and lead to tensions between international jurists committed to upholding strict standards of law and human rights activists demanding accountability for mass atrocities.
While activist groups and government officials in the US have labelled the Darfur conflict "genocide" for years, the 2005 UN investigation into the conflict, while confirming possible war crimes and crimes against humanity, found that "the Government of Sudan has not pursued a policy of Genocide [in Darfur]."3 Prominent critics of international intervention in Darfur such as Mahmood Mamdani have also
decried the use of the term in describing the conflict.4
The crime of genocide, as defined in international law by the 1948 Genocide Convention, requires a standard of specific intent (dolus specialis): the perpetrators of the genocide must act with "intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such." Despite its restricted definition in international law, in political discourse the genocide label is applied more liberally to a vast array of conflicts. For example, activist groups once labelled both the Australian government's policy towards aboriginal peoples and the 1990s international economic sanctions regime against Iraq as genocides.5
Political mobilisation around the Darfur conflict in particular has relied heavily on the fact that genocide generates near unparalleled moral outrage and concern. In the US, the Genocide-Intervention Network (GI-Net) and STAND (GI-Net's student division) both
describe their organisations as "anti-genocide coalitions". While some major international NGOs like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have not described the violence in Darfur as genocide, an entire community of niche groups specifically devoted to Darfur advocacy makes ubiquitous use of the word "genocide" in discussing the
conflict. Even the Enough Project, which describes itself as "a project to end genocide," has taken to characterising the violence in Darfur as a genocidal campaign. The popular "never again" slogan of activist groups also seeks to link Darfur to historical cases of
genocide in Rwanda and Nazi Germany. In political discussion about Darfur, the word "genocide" is ever-present, appearing in most of the literature of activist organisations and in many speeches by Western political leaders.
Increasingly, however, it appears that the political perspective of groups seeking international action concerning mass atrocities diverges from the legal perspective of international jurists about the specificity of the crime of genocide.
While the Pre-Trial Chamber did note that future evidence could be introduced to charge Bashir with genocide, the refusal to grant Ocampo's initial request will complicate the agenda of activist organisations. While human rights groups appear to have universally trumpeted the ICC announcement as a success for the rule of law, the absence of the genocide charge may cast a spectre over their celebration.
It may become more difficult for activist groups to continue to rely on support from international legal institution in their campaigns if there is increasing dissent about whether the conflict can be accurately viewed as genocide. Activist groups appear to have
initially viewed the ICC's warrant as a victory, but over time international legal precedent may impair the ability of these groups to continue to describe the violence in Darfur as a genocide.
Political leaders and even constituent groups could make use of the Pre-Trial Chamber's ruling as a way to downplay the gravity of the violence in Darfur and dispute activist groups' claims for the necessity of immediate intervention.
There is little dispute that serious crimes have been committed in Darfur, but crimes against humanity and war crimes do not posses the same power as genocide in terms of political mobilisation. Other instances of mass atrocities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Sierra Leone, Colombia, Uganda and Afghanistan have not garnered anything close to the attention political activists and popular media, especially in the United States, have devoted to Darfur, despite the fact that in the case of the DRC, civil war death tolls from direct violence far exceed those in Sudan. While it is not
immediately clear that the label of genocide alone constitutes the reason for the greater attention paid to Darfur vis-à-vis other serious international conflicts, the findings of the Pre-Trial Chamber might potentially decrease the potency and momentum of some
campaigns for humanitarian intervention in Darfur. Should the Darfur conflict, as a result of international legal consensus, begin to lose its popularly perceived pre-eminent status as the world's only ongoing genocide, activists may be forced to develop new tools and
strategies to encourage political and humanitarian action in Darfur.
Zachary Manfredi is an MPhil candidate in Political Theory at the University of Oxford: zak.manfredi@...
1 A shorter version of this essay appeared on the Oxford Transitional Justice Research "ICC Observers"
2 ICC-02/05-01/09 Case The Prosecutor v. Omar Hassan Ahmad Al Bashir Situation in Darfur, Sudan.
Public Court Records - Pre-Trial Chamber I. 04 March 2009.
3 `Report of the International Commission of Inquiry on violations of international law and human rights
law in Darfur," UN Doc. S/2005/60. http://www.un.org/News/dh/sudan/com_inq_darfur.pdf
4 Mamdani, Mahmood. "The Politics of Naming: Genocide, Civil War, Insurgency." The London Review of Books, March 2007.
5 See Hirsh, David. Law Against Genocide. Glasshouse Press: London, 2003. pp 51 for these and other
WORLD VIEW NEWS SERVICE
To subscribe to this group, send an email to:
NEWS ARCHIVE IS OPEN TO PUBLIC VIEW
Need some good karma? Appreciate the service?
Please consider donating to WVNS today.
Email ummyakoub@... for instructions.