SUDAN WATCH: To put justice before peace spells disaster for Sudan (Julie Flint & Alex de Waal)

Saturday, March 07, 2009

To put justice before peace spells disaster for Sudan (Julie Flint & Alex de Waal)

"There will be no justice in Sudan without peace. When peace and justice clash, as they do in Sudan today, peace must prevail."

Those noteworthy lines are from the following commentary authored by Sudan experts Julie Flint and Alex de Waal. Click into the original article at The Guardian's website to view the comments posted (38 so far) mostly from people who I think sadly, going by the five years of archives here at Sudan Watch, do not know what they are talking about. Here below is a copy of 11 of the comments worth reading.

It's at times like this that I wish I had the energy and writing skills to support the arguments of Julie Flint and Alex de Waal whilst also challenging the blatant political activism of Eric Reeves and Nicholas Kristof who have great command of the English language. The pen is mightier than the sword. Unfortunately, the best I can do is devote what time and energy I do have to sharing news and information in this blog in the vain hope that it may encourage some people who are interested in learning about Sudan to read up on the crisis from well informed sources such as Julie Flint and Alex de Waal and not the savedarfurcrowd who I believe have agendas of their own that are driven by self interest.

To put justice before peace spells disaster for Sudan
By Julie Flint and Alex de Waal
The Guardian
Friday 6 March 2009
After seven months' deliberation, the judges of the international criminal court finally issued an arrest warrant for Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president, this week. Their appeal for retributive justice, in the form of charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur, was solemnly echoed in European and US capitals, and universally by rights organisations and activist groups. Within hours, however, theSudan government showed that the court and its backers were powerless to defend or feed the millions of Darfurians in whose name justice is being sought. It summarily expelled the biggest international aid agencies, seized their assets, and closed down Sudanese human rights organisations at gunpoint.

As fuel to run the water pumps in Darfur's massive displaced camps runs low and the worst meningitis epidemic in a decade spreads with lethal speed, the Sudan government will be responsible for the deaths and suffering that will result - not only in Darfur, but in other parts of Sudan where relief work is now curtailed, including the drought-stricken eastern region.

But it was the ICC prosecutor who set the match to the dry tinder that is Sudan. It is quite extraordinary that Luis Moreno-Ocampo and a host of diplomats and activists were capable of condemning the government for the most hideous crimes with one breath and asserting with the next that it would tamely change its spots when threatened with standing trial in The Hague.

In truth, no one knew what the arrest warrant would mean. Rights groups who had supported an independent, permanent court kept their concerns private. Activist commentators and lawyers, often with little knowledge of Sudan, cleaved to the mantra that there is no peace without justice. Warrants against Slobodan Milosevic and Charles Taylor (the former presidents of Yugoslavia and Liberia) had contributed to their speedy overthrow, Geoffrey Robertson argued, and would do the same to Bashir. But Milosevic and Taylor were weak, and the west wanted them gone. Bashir has fought off all challenges for 20 years, and the west has been supporting a fragile and hard-fought peace agreement that kept him in power as the quid pro quo of a transition to democracy.

All this now hangs by a thread. The risks were real, and they were inflated by the way in which Moreno-Ocampo insisted on pursuing Bashir for "ongoing genocide" with, he claimed fantastically, 5,000 people dying a month.

One of our reasons for opposing an arrest warrant when the application was made last year was that the case for genocide was based on flimsy evidence and weak argument. He repeatedly said, with no evidence whatsoever, that the government was orchestrating "systematic" attacks on the camps to "eliminate African tribes" there. In an encouraging indication that the ICC judges took their job seriously, and had a better command of the facts, they rejected his three charges of genocide, finding that he had failed to demonstrate that Bashir had a case to answer there. This was a stunning rebuff to Moreno-Ocampo, who has insisted in public more than once that Bashir is guilty of genocide and must be removed from office.

Worse, the prosecutor hinted - again repeatedly - that he got his information from humanitarian agencies. The damage done by this is incalculable. Sudanese security believes international agencies have been passing information to the ICC. So far, 11 agencies have been ordered out. Their humanitarian infrastructure has been dismantled and their assets seized. The UN agencies are still there. For the moment. But the World Food Programme relies on two now absent NGOs - Care and Save the Children - to distribute 80% of its rations. Will Khartoum allow the WFP to build a new food distribution infrastructure - a task of many months? Or will it simply insist on doing the job itself? Most likely the latter. Meanwhile, in addition to epidemics and a hunger season, Darfur faces the likelihood of violence as rebels and government militias respond to the new uncertainties by tearing up the local peace agreements that have kept much of Darfur stable for three years.

Last year, according to UN figures, about 150 Darfurians died every month in violence. Fewer than half were civilians; the others were soldiers, militiamen, bandits and rebels. Things could get worse, much worse. There is good reason to believe the aid agency expulsions are only the beginning. Those who have argued that the Sudan government responds to pressure make a critical mistake. Pressure works if the party under pressure can agree with the end point. If that is life imprisonment, pressure only generates counter-pressure. For Khartoum, Moreno-Ocampo's ultimatum is not negotiable. It is a fight to the death.

International justice is a virtuous enterprise, but not risk-free. Sudanese people are already paying a high price for the abandonment of the diplomatic approach that has yielded such benefits over the last four years. We fear there is more to come: NGO expulsions, actions against UN staff members and, worst of all, a go-slow or reversal of commitment to elections and self-determination for Southern Sudan. There will be no justice in Sudan without peace. When peace and justice clash, as they do in Sudan today, peace must prevail.
Julie Flint and Alex de Waal are the co-authors of Darfur: A New History of a Long War.
- - -

Copy of 11 (out of 38) Comments

It's hard to believe many of you have read this article. While you may not agree with the authors' conclusion--perhaps, for you, justice is all important--do you really think it's "disgusting," "cynical," and "revolting"? To make those charges, you'd have to believe that the authors were motivated by something selfish or base. So give us the evidence: the evidence that these authors don't mean what they say and are not primarily motivated by a desire to help the people of Darfur. Otherwise, have the decency to remain silent.
- - -

Interesting - no one has a good word to say for the Basheer regime . The regime must have supporters out there, and as the media say there are always two sides to every story. It must have its own PR folk, spin doctors, etc those who write media releases and take journalists on tours.

No one willing to get on CiF, and post how much good Basheer has done around Khartoum? how he tried to help the Fur, but they wont have it ? How his regime's development of oil has done so much for his countrymen? How many hospitals he has built in the country? How much average life expectancy has gone up? We're not asking them to justify themselves to the west - just asking - where is the other side to this story?
- - -

Interesting article, thanks. I don't know the ins and outs of the Sudan conflict and rely almost solely on media drivel (as do most self-professed 'experts' on this thread). I found this article more nuanced and convincing than most articles I've read on Sudan. I particularly liked the denouement at the end:

International justice is a virtuous enterprise, but not risk-free.

Agreed; especially when it's designed as mere symbolism. In this case it's also been very counter-productive.
- - -

While the immediate humanitarian consequences of the indictment are admittedly dire, it shouldn't be seen as merely a symbolic act. Practitioners currently working in international criminal courts would argue that, whilst the ICC may be a fledgling institution operating against overwhelming odds (rather than a powerful body bent on colonialization as some would suggest), it is vital that the international community sends the message that if world leaders use genocide as an instrument of power they will be held to account.
- - -

Some very good points in the article.

Seems like a stunt by Western powers. If Bashir is a war criminal then so are Bush, Blair, Howard, and Harper to name a few.

Would they ever have warrants issues against them?

We all know the answer to this question.
- - -

if world leaders use genocide as an instrument of power they will be held to account.

What does that have to do with Sudan? You don't have a clue, do you? The ICC judges threw out Moreno-Ocampo's genocide allegations.
- - -

This is a great article
- - -

Lovely, naive comment, Geoffrey. He probably isn't innocent, by any stretch of the imagination, but that is beside the point. The problem is that the indictment by the (very questionable and selective) ICC will do little to actually bring justice to Sudan. In fact it has exacerbated the situation. It's merely symbolic tokenism in order to make a few liberal believers feel good about themselves. It has only been detrimental to the people of Sudan and Darfur (which is what this ought to be about, right?).
- - -

But its conveninet for the sloppy journalistic cliches to say it is an ethnic conflict because we love to divide people. In reality african is fighting african for precious resources in the desert, as many human peoples have done and will carry on doing for a long time.

But I disagree with the author Bashir should be tried indeed, Sudan and its people need to regain their soul and exorcise a few demons.
- - -

This debate is infuriating. de Waal and Flint are experts on Sudan who have a understanding of the real issues facing that country. Insulting their very considered and, in my opinion, accurate article as trash and propaganda is disrespectful in the extreme.

I worked at the war crimes tribunal for Rwanda for almost a year and witnessed the absolute failure of that institution to bring anything like peace and reconciliation to Rwanda. Unfortunately, as olching correctly notes, international criminal justice in its current form is mere tokenism; an exculpatory measure from a West keen to assuage the guilt of failing to solve (and often creating) the problems in the developing world.

Why don't we focus all this energy and, I think, genuine good-will, on solving the real issues driving this conflict? Perhaps then one day we may actually make progress towards peace:
- - -

if world leaders use genocide as an instrument of power they will be held to account.

The charges of genocide were thrown out. Every impartial investigation has concluded there wasn't genocide in Darfur.
- - -

Further reading

Sudan Watch - March 06, 2009: "To those who say there is no peace without justice, I reply, as a Brit, with two words: Northern Ireland." - Julie Flint


Post a Comment

<< Home

Click HERE to scroll up ......Click HERE to scroll down