By Luis Moreno Ocampo and Tom AndrewsThree years ago today, an arrest warrant was released by the International Criminal Court for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on charges of genocide in Darfur. Yet today Bashir is a fugitive from justice and is the current president of Sudan.
The Darfur case was originally referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) by the United Nations Security Council, implying an obligation for the world to hold those wanted to account. The charges of genocide came on top of previous charges issued for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Even more inauspicious, it was ten years ago that the genocide that led to 300,000 deaths began in Darfur. Bashir’s forces learned to use rape and hunger as silent weapons to commit genocide against some 2.5 million Darfuris. They are living in camps for displaced persons at the disposal of Bashir’s forces. They are helpless, voiceless and with no hope for the future. Those who have the duty to protect them attack them. Darfuris need international authorities to help end a genocide that should have been stopped years ago.
Bashir is also attacking Sudanese citizens in the states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile. In addition to aerial bombardments and ground attacks, Bashir has again used hunger as a weapon, blocking international humanitarian access to those most affected by the violence.
In fact, it is the same individuals wanted by the ICC for crimes in Darfur who are overseeing the attacks in the South, not only Bashir, but also the former Minister of Interior and current Defense Minister, Abdel Raheem Muhammad Hussein, and the former State Minister for the Interior and current Governor of Kordofan Ahmad Harun. Impunity has a cost of millions of new victims.
The world once claimed ignorance of the Nazi atrocities. Fifty years later, the world refused to recognize an unfolding genocide in Rwanda. On Darfur, the world is officially on notice.
Yet, in the last two months alone Bashir was welcomed into Ethiopia, Eritrea, Qatar and Chad (a country that has signed onto the ICC) with barely a whisper of condemnation from the world’s governments.
Such impunity echoes far beyond the borders of Sudan. As the first sitting president wanted by the ICC, Bashir is a symbol of what could be the destiny of Assad and other leaders. They are committing more atrocities to remain in power.
If Bashir is to be held accountable then the countries that enable his impunity must also be held accountable. And if the UN Security Council and the world’s governments will not cry out against such an affront to justice, then it is up to citizens to do so. Last year millions watched the video seeking justice for the abuser of child soldiers Joseph Kony. The United States sent special forces to help track and apprehend him. Unlike Kony, we know exactly where Bashir is. We know where he travels and when.
The world will listen. Last year the outcry of activists and some Members in the U.S. Congress helped to bring pressure to bear on Malawi, both diplomatically and in the form of threatened loss of bilateral aid, resulting in a warning that Bashir would be arrested if he were to follow through on a planned visit. Malawi joins South Africa and Zambia as countries that have taken the positive step to commit to upholding justice if Bashir should try to visit. Other countries should do more to stop Bashir.
If the United States and China, Europe and Russia, the African Union and Arab League reach an agreement, Bashir will go and his criminal policies will end. Efforts like Bashir Watch will make sure that silence is not an acceptable option.
Ten years from now, we hope that the lesson before the world will be one of Bashir facing justice, not one of a repeat offender leading a new series of crimes against humanity and genocide. A decade of impunity is already too long.
Luis Moreno Ocampo is the former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court and a Distinguished Visiting Professor at NYU Law School. Former Congressman Tom H. Andrews is the President of United to End Genocide.