As the International Criminal Court continues to move towards a possible warrant for Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, analysts are worried that this may actually increase tensions in the region. The New York Times stated:
The indictment of a sitting head of state in a war-torn country would not be unprecedented: Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia and Charles Taylor of Liberia were both charged by international war crimes courts while in office.
But the complexity and fragility of Sudan’s multiple conflicts have led many diplomats, analysts and aid workers to worry that the Sudanese government could lash out at the prosecutor’s move by expelling Western diplomats and relief workers who provide aid to millions of people displaced by the fighting, provoking a vast crisis and shutting the door to vital diplomatic efforts to bring lasting peace.
The dueling objectives have exposed a growing tension: between justice and peace, that is, between the prosecution of war criminals and the compromises of diplomacy.
This might be an acceptable argument, if the outcome in Darfur might be swayed by a show of diplomacy. As situations stand now, the negotiations for peace have been all but ineffective with the Sudanese government, and the only compromises being made are to exerting real pressure on the current administration.
“I think it is absolutely imperative to go straight to the top,” said John Prendergast, a former Clinton administration official who co-founded Enough, a group that seeks to end genocide. He argued that concerted pressure by the international community had changed Sudan’s behavior at times.
Economic sanctions have traditionally motivated Khartoum, even when western diplomats have loathed recommending them. While it’s difficult to tell if issuing a warrant against al-Bashir would inflame or dampen the current crisis in Darfur, it’s equally difficult to make an argument against the relevance of such a move when viewed through the lens of creating a precedent to actively promote genocide intervention.