SUDAN WATCH: UN must end Sudan violence, say Americans - support war crimes trials for Darfur

Monday, January 24, 2005

UN must end Sudan violence, say Americans - support war crimes trials for Darfur

Many adults in the US want to stop the civil war in Sudan, according to a poll by Knowledge Networks for the Program on International Policy Attitudes, Jan 24.

74 per cent of respondents believe the UN should step in with military force to end the conflict in Darfur.

60 per cent of respondents say the US should be willing to contribute troops to a military operation to stop the genocide in Darfur, but only 42 per cent believe the international community will actually step in to end the violence.

Polling Data

Do you think the members of the United Nations (UN) should or should not step in with military force and stop the genocide in Darfur, Sudan?

Should step in
74%

Should not step in
17%

No answer
10%

If other members of the UN are willing to contribute troops to a military operation to stop the genocide in Darfur, do you think the U.S. should or should not be willing to contribute some troops as well?

Should be willing
60%

Should not be willing
33%

No answer
7%

Do you think the international community, including the US, will or will not step in with military force and stop the genocide in Darfur?

Will step in
42%

Will not step in
47%

No answer
11%

Methodology: Interviews to 801 American adults, conducted from Dec. 21 to Dec. 26, 2004. Margin of error is 3.5 per cent.

UPDATE:

Further reading: Jan 24 The Conservative Voice News: "3 Out of 4 Americans Favor UN Military Intervention in Darfur"
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South African police contingent for Darfur

A news report out of Pretoria today confirms South Africa is readying 100 peacekeepers for Darfur. The report says SA's Cabinet approved a request by the AU for South Africa to contribute a contingent of 100 police officers to Darfur, as part of the civilian police component of the AU Peace Mission.

"The advance guard of this police contingent is meant to establish the police headquarters in Darfur during January. The AU police mission will be under the command of SAPS," the Cabinet statement said.
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Support War Crimes Trials for Darfur

On Jan 21, the US State Department rejected a proposal to have the International Criminal Court prosecute war crimes committed in Darfur. Spokesman Richard Boucher said the department has "a number of objections" to the tribunal.

In a Washington Post opinion piece today titled "Support War Crimes Trials for Darfur", Jack Goldsmith, a professor at Harvard Law School, suggests the Darfur case would allow the US to argue that UN Security Council referrals are the only valid route to ICC prosecutions and that countries that are not parties to the ICC (such as the US) remain immune from ICC control in the absence of such a referral.

Prof Goldsmith concludes by saying, "it is possible that the concrete threat of an ICC prosecution could temper the killings in Darfur without adversely affecting the recent peace deal between Sudan's Islamic government and its southern rebels. If so, the Bush administration should play the difficult hand likely to be dealt it by the Cassese commission to its own political advantage. A more moderate stance toward the ICC could be a more effective one." [See below copy of report in full]

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A displaced Sudanese woman carries a bucket of water in northern Darfur in 2004. The United States backed prosecution of Sudanese suspected of committing atrocities in the Darfur region but opposed bringing them before the International Criminal Court (AFP/File)

Note, international prosecutions are needed to deter ongoing atrocities in Darfur, Human Rights Watch said today in a report documenting crimes the Sudanese government and its allied militias have committed with complete impunity.
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The Washington Post has put up a registration page blocking Prof Goldsmith's article, so here is a copy in full:

Support War Crimes Trials for Darfur
By Jack Goldsmith
Monday, January 24, 2005

A U.N. commission chaired by the former president of the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal, Antonio Cassese, is expected to issue its recommendation this week on whether the International Criminal Court should investigate human rights abuses in the Darfur region of Sudan. If the Cassese commission does propose an ICC investigation, a Security Council referral will be necessary for the ICC to proceed, because Sudan has not ratified the ICC treaty.

This would place the Bush administration in a bind. The administration has condemned the Darfur abuses as genocide. But at the same time, it strongly opposes the ICC, which it believes is staffed by unaccountable judges and prosecutors who threaten politically motivated actions against U.S. personnel around the globe. These concerns explain why the United States has opposed ratification of the ICC treaty and has sought bilateral assurances that other nations will not send U.S. nationals to the ICC. News reports suggest that the Bush administration would oppose a Security Council referral on Darfur out of fear that it would confer legitimacy on the international court.

In fact such a referral would be consistent with U.S. policy on the ICC. The United States has never opposed ICC prosecutions across the board. Rather, it has maintained that ICC prosecutions of non-treaty parties would be politically accountable and thus legitimate if they received the imprimatur of the Security Council. The Darfur case allows the United States to argue that Security Council referrals are the only valid route to ICC prosecutions and that countries that are not parties to the ICC (such as the United States) remain immune from ICC control in the absence of such a referral.

This course of action would signal U.S. support not only for the United Nations but for international human rights as well, at a time when Washington is perceived by some as opposing both. And it would give the United States leverage in seeking genuine sanctions against Sudan, especially with France, which for oil-related reasons has quietly resisted U.S. efforts on Darfur. France would have a hard time opposing a package of sanctions that included U.S. support for an ICC referral. Opposition by China and Russia would be harder to overcome but would at least make clear to the world that those two powerful nations are even more opposed to the ICC than the United States.

U.S. support for a Security Council referral might also point the way to a compromise with European nations that are anxious to secure U.S. backing for the international court but oppose state-to-state deals that overtly immunize U.S. citizens from ICC jurisdiction. Agreement on the need for Security Council approval for ICC prosecutions would provide a more principled way for Europe to alleviate U.S. concerns about rogue ICC prosecutions. Critics would decry this approach as a double standard for Security Council members, who can protect themselves by vetoing a referral. But this double standard is woven into the fabric of international politics and is the relatively small price the international system pays for the political accountability and support that only the big powers, acting through the Security Council, can provide.

The fears of "legitimizing" the ICC are overstated. It's too late to kill the International Criminal Court. The Security Council (including the United States) presupposed the ICC's authority when it voted in 2002 and 2003 to immunize U.N. peacekeepers from ICC prosecutions. And the institution is now up and running, preparing for cases already referred to it. For better or worse, the ICC is not going away anytime soon.

Another potential obstacle is a 2001 congressional bar on U.S. cooperation with the ICC. But this statute exempts acts taken pursuant to the president's constitutional authority, and it specifically permits the president to communicate to the ICC U.S. "policy with respect to a matter." The congressional ban would preclude U.S. financial support for the ICC, but all that means is that the United States can, for a change, enjoy the fruits of international justice without having to pay for it.

Not that there will necessarily be much fruit. Prosecutions by other international criminal courts have done little to bring reconciliation to Rwanda or the former Yugoslavia, or (as the Darfur tragedy shows) to deter future crimes in other nations. Nonetheless, it is possible that the concrete threat of an ICC prosecution could temper the killings in Darfur without adversely affecting the recent peace deal between Sudan's Islamic government and its southern rebels. If so, the Bush administration should play the difficult hand likely to be dealt it by the Cassese commission to its own political advantage. A more moderate stance toward the ICC could be a more effective one.

The writer, a professor at Harvard Law School and a former Bush administration official in the Justice and Defense departments, is the author of "The Limits of International Law."

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