Monday, April 04, 2005

UN list of Darfur war crimes suspects to ICC tomorrow - Khartoum must act quickly to avert a perilous threat

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is expected to give a list of 51 Darfur war crimes suspects to the International Criminal Court tomorrow. Let's hope the regime in Khartoum get to hear of - and read - the latest editorial at The Daily Star Lebanon that warns the Sudanese government must act quickly to avert a perilous threat. Here is a copy:

The Sudanese government is right to say that their country is under threat. The UN Security Council has agreed that there have been serious human rights violations in Darfur, where hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians have been killed and tortured by government forces and militias. In passing Resolution 1593, the Security Council has affirmed that crimes of such a horrific magnitude are unacceptable in this day and age and that such grave offenses will no longer go unpunished.

While it is true that countless massacres in Africa have been ignored in the past (including those caused by the hands of colonizing forces), the international community is slowly progressing to a point where it will no longer sit idly by and watch as thousands of innocent people are slaughtered. And although the world has been slow to respond to the crisis in Darfur, it has done so with a resounding clarity and commitment to justice: the Security Council's resolution seeks the prosecution of 51 suspects, including senior government officials, in the International Court of Justice in the Hague.

In light of this resolution, it is not the international community that is posing the greatest threat to Sudan, but rather, the Sudanese government's own obstinance. At such a crucial point in Sudan's development, the government cannot afford to disregard international consensus and thereby jeopardize its budding economy by subjecting itself to the threat of tougher sanctions. Doing so would be perilous for the regime. The country's existence and progress depends on its continued integration into the global economy and on international assistance in the form of aid, loans and debt relief. Ignoring the international community now will only serve to weaken the government of Sudan. It is also in Sudan's interests to do what is best for its citizenry by demonstrating a commitment to justice and the rule of law. Such moves will not only bolster the government's standing at home, they will also improve the country's standing among international investors and aid donors.

For now, it seems Sudan has opted to go on a collision course with the UN, vehemently defending capability to prosecute war criminals at home. There is every reason for the government to reconsider its stance. For surely an international role in chaperoning justice is not an infringement on the Sudan's sovereignty, but rather, a contribution to its development.

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