The ICC has hit the news again today because its prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, has issued an indictment against Omar al-Bashir, the President of Sudan, for his involvement in the atrocities in Darfur.
Involving the ICC in major conflicts around the globe can be far from straightforward – and in this case, the international community faces an extremely difficult dilemma, in judging whether everyone’s objective of ending the conflict and helping those who had had their lives devastated by it, is best achieved by involving the ICC, or whether that would do more harm than good by endangering ongoing peace negotiations among the parties there (some discussion of this is on the BBC here). This is a very similar dilemma to that which the international community faced a few years ago in deciding whether or not to refer Sudanese involvement in the conflict between the Lord’s Resistance Army (with bases in Sudan) and Uganda.
I’m not close enough to negotiations on these issues to make an informed judgement on this precarious balance. Certainly it would be a very difficult call to make potentially to endanger promising peace negotiations by involving the international court.
But generally I strongly believe that we should be supporting the cause of criminals around the world who are not subject to effective legal sanction in their own country, being brought before the International Criminal Court. Some of these will be formally private individuals, but some will be in government – for although Omar al-Bashir is the first serving head of state to be indicted by the ICC, the court is part of the same family of international criminal tribunals on specific countries which brought to justice figures such as Yugoslavia’s Slobadan Milosevic.
The idea that people guilty of such major crimes, who are not ever going to come before a court in their own country, should therefore be brought to justice at international level, is a really major step forward.