Judges at the International Criminal Court have decided to issue an arrest warrant for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan, brushing aside diplomatic requests to allow more time for peace negotiations in the conflict-riddled Darfur region of his country, according to court lawyers and diplomats.
It is the first time the court has sought the detention of a sitting head of state, and it could further complicate the tense, international debate over how to solve the crisis in Darfur.
Ever since international prosecutors began seeking an arrest warrant last year, opponents have pressed the United Nations Security Council to use its power to suspend the proceedings. But a majority of Council members have argued that the case should go forward, saying Mr. Bashir has not done enough to stop the bloodshed to deserve a reprieve.
Many African and Arab nations counter that issuing a warrant for Mr. Bashir’s arrest could backfire, diminishing Sudan’s willingness to compromise for the sake of peace. Others, including some United Nations officials, worry that a warrant could inspire reprisal attacks against civilians, aid groups or the thousands of international peacekeepers deployed there. (Full)
While Sudan still plays down reports on al-Bashir arrest decision for the moment, there was plenty of press in the past months where Sudan claimed indicting their president would risk bloodshed.
And then there is of course the statement of the UN envoy to Sudan saying Bashir's government warned the UN of "serious consequences" for its staff and facilities if the International Criminal Court issues an arrest warrant.
This resulted in the Sudanese government denying such threats (Full), and the UN denying it was to evacuate its staff in view of the upcoming arrest warrants (Full).
All politics and maneuvering... My predictions:
- Sudan will not surrender its president to the ICC
- UN and the powers-that-be will further pressure Sudan
- Masses will come onto the streets in all major cities, attacking UN and NGO facilities, causing the latter to seriously reduce staff.
- Darfur rebels and South Sudanese fractions will see a potential vacuum, and will renew military actions.
- ..causing the Sudanese military to respond more violently than before
- UN and NGOs evacuate
- ...giving either warring fractions enough space to do whatever they want in a free-for-all genocide.
- and by the time all of this is finished with a political compromise, Sudan will have one million people less. And the world will have one more genocide to justify.
But that is just me and my cynical mind, of course.
Picture courtesy AFP/Getty Images