In one month, when the UN General Assembly opens, the man behind the Darfur genocide wants to come to New York and address world leaders. Why? He believes that no one in the United States, or at the United Nations, cares enough to stop him.
So far, he’s right. Since the UN-backed International Criminal Court charged him with genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in 2006, Bashir has roamed the globe, visiting at least 15 countries, including Egypt, Ethiopia, Mauritania, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Sudan and the UAE, just this year.
For those paying attention, his crimes are clear. The genocide he oversaw in Darfur took the lives 300,000 people and forced nearly three million to flee from their homes.
His crimes aren’t a thing of the past. Right now the people of Darfur are suffering the worst attacks since the height of the genocide. In the wake of the Sudanese army’s latest offensive in Darfur, up to 210,000 people have been forced from their homes this year. 4.4 million people trapped in the conflict are in desperate need of food, water, and shelter.
In late August, the UN Human Rights chief demanded for an end to Bashir’s “endemic impunity”. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the epitome of international legitimacy, recently stated “the arrest of President al-Bashir on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes is a matter I take extremely seriously”.
Yet next week Ban will be sharing the stage in China with Bashir, commemorating the end of World War II, the very conflict that led to recognition of a crime called genocide. That irony should not be lost.
The United States, similarly, has sent mixed signals to Bashir. The Administration has stated its commitment to holding Bashir accountable for his crimes and most recently expressed deep concern and disappointment that Bashir was allowed to visit South Africa. But in March of this year Secretary Kerry found himself posing for a group photo with diplomats in Egypt directly behind Bashir.
Now with Bashir hinting at a visit to the United States and the United Nations, the ambiguity must stop. International criminals who are wanted for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity belong at the International Criminal Court in The Hague not the United Nations.
Fortunately, many voices are rising up to ensure justice for the people of Darfur and all those suffering ongoing atrocities across Sudan.
Former ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has laid out the legal argument for the United States to arrest Bashir and boldly suggested that he should be allowed in and be detained. And United to End Genocide and other members of the Bashir Watch coalition are preparing legal actions and public protests should Bashir come to the United States.
International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda recently said, “The question we need to ask of ourselves today is whether the people of Darfur, who continue to suffer, will ever receive the justice they deserve?”
We need to be ready to answer YES loud and clear if Bashir comes to the United States in September.
What is at stake is not only justice for the hundreds of thousands of Bashir’s victims in Darfur and across Sudan, but every victim of a genocide today and in the in the future.