Saturday, November 22, 2008

Grey Matters

What that title refers to is not the stuff between our ears, but what happens when issues aren't black and white. Nuanced may be a better title for the situation in Darfur.

After the eight years of an occupied White House keeping its hands off and telling China to go influence al-Bashir to stop armed militia preying on Darfur's black population, the U.S. has earned only shame in the conflict there. What a new administration can bring, we can only guess, but the International Criminal Court has taken up the matter of recent murders of U.N. peacekeepers by rebel groups, and may be declaring those acts also violation of international law. Of course, al-Bashir will then have no excuse for ignoring ICC calls for his trial.

With his call to indict Sudanese rebel leaders for crimes in Darfur, International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo will hope to blunt moves in the United Nations to grant immunity from a genocide charge to Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir.

Several UN members have indicated support for suspending a proposed ICC indictment against Mr Bashir if he co-operates in turning Darfur's delicate peace process into a reality.

In announcing charges against Mr Bashir's foes, the prosecutor is hoping to show he is even handed.

Mr Bashir was accused of genocide in July, although the ICC has yet to confirm the charge.

Since then the Arab League and the African Union have called on the UN Security Council to use special powers, under Article 16 of the ICC constitution, to suspend the case against Mr al-Bashir.

Four of the five permanent members of the council - Britain, China, France and Russia - have indicated support for the plan.

"In the event the Sudan authorities do change, totally change, their policy," said French President Nikolas Sarkozy, "France would not be opposed to using, I believe it is, Article 16."

Stuck in the mud

Human rights groups complain that such a deal would be the kiss of death for international war crimes justice, setting a dangerous precedent.

This has some of the coloration that the situation here in the U.S. has shown. Saddled with an outgoing administration that has waged illegal war, violated the constitution and our rule of law, committed crimes as heinous as illegal detention and torture, undermined the executive branch by giving it a political rather than executive function, and destroyed the economy by ignoring our laws, the incoming administration is confronted with this kind of choice.

It is in the interests of a destroyed economy, our immediate crisis, to pitch in at once to retrieve the mangled working/business community. In ultimate terms though, perpetuating the crimes by ignoring them and their perpetrators is betrayal of justice.

The international community is watching the U.S., and its lawless elements, just as it is watching genocide in Darfur. It would be required to act eventually, if we don't, in the matter of our unilateral war against Iraq and those we declared 'terrorists'. The debate going on now in the ICC foreshadows actions against, or in accord with, governments that have internal elements who have committed international atrocities. Whether the action is against or in accord with the U.S. is our own choice.

When the present maladministration came into office, it denied the International Criminal Court the recognition to act here. Having sent that message, it proceeded to commit the very crimes it had denied the ICC the right to punish. The U.S. is a rogue nation until it recognizes the rights of the world to keep crimes from being committed arbitrarily by one country against another.

If this country had recognized and then appealed to the ICC for its prosecution of the Saddam Hussein regime we removed at such great cost to the countries of Iraq and the U.S., it would have been better for all concerned. In addition, the world would no doubt be in much better shape economically.

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