Barack Lets Bashir Walk

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    Featured Columnist – Meditations
    Martin LeFerve

    Omar al-Bashir, the President of Sudan who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, has been reelected in a sham election. World citizens and civil society organizations urgently need to declare the election invalid.

    The problem is not with the election itself. It was a foregone conclusion when major candidates and political parties pulled out in the run-up to the vote.

    Rather, the Sudanese election is invalid because no person indicted for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court, including (and especially) a standing president, has the right to run for reelection until the charges against him or her have been either nullified, or a non-guilty verdict has been reached.

    Omar al-Bashir is making a fool not only out of the ICC and the international community; he’s making a fool out of Barack Obama and the United States.

    Sudanese journalists, the Carter Center along with other Western monitors, and civil society organizations in Sudan, have all said that the complex, protracted, façade of an election was fatally flawed. Yet Obama’s special envoy for Sudan, Maj. Gen. Scott Gration, preemptively defended the elections, saying they would be “as free and as fair as possible.”

    Barack Obama, in his see no evil/hear no evil foreign policy, has provided no leadership on crimes against humanity in general, and Sudan in particular. Obama’s father was from the neighboring country of Kenya. Is he ignoring Africa because his father deserted and ignored him?

    Or is he simply an astute political calculator, something that made him a gifted candidate, but makes him a mediocre President? Obama knows there’s no political benefit in using his increasingly pipsqueaky pulpit to speak out about Africa.

    People of conscience understand that many Africans feel that the international community has placed undue and unfair focus on African countries and leaders. But Africans recognize a despot like al-Bashir when they see one, and know that this man surpasses Robert Mugabe in mischief and mayhem.

    Africans are understandably outraged when the supposed international community focuses its ire and ICC at African countries, while war criminals like George Bush and Tony Blair receive a free pass, even after they’re out of office.

    Even so, I hope Africans will no longer feel the need to close ranks, but realize that a higher principle is at work in the al-Bashir ICC case. National sovereignty can no longer provide impunity for crimes against humanity.

    Can some reputable civil society organization petition the ICC prosecutor to bring the charge of crimes against humanity against Bush and Blair–even though there’s a snowball’s chance in hell they’ll be prosecuted? That would at least give the appearance of fairness at the ICC.

    Whereas the US/UK invasion of Iraq was a fait accompli well before the fact, and Bush and Blair failed in their attempt to get a Security Council imprimatur, the outcome of Sudan’s farcical elections is a real and present danger to international law.

    Even in countries where innocence is presumed until guilt is proven, a candidate running for office under felony indictment is elected under a cloud of suspicion and a question of legitimacy.

    Beyond questions of national legitimacy however, common humanity demands that we end the legacy of impunity of national leaders committing crimes against humanity.

    Al-Bashir is mocking the international community, and calling the ICC’s bluff with the Obama Administration’s acquiescence. Of course, under George Bush, the United States refused to sign the accord creating the ICC, and even under Obama the USA “has launched a full-scale multi-pronged campaign against the International Criminal Court,” according to the Coalition for the ICC.

    The implicit and widely accepted idea that the fate of nations is still determined by each sovereign state is producing a world of increasing chaos. Sovereignty in a global society and economy no longer belongs to nations, but to humanity as a whole.

    But don’t individuals and peoples determine their own destiny? Yes, individuals and peoples do, but nations, which were never separate, are no longer sovereign.

    All that’s left of national identity is the rump of nationalism. And nationalism in the present historical context has only one direction it can go—toward totalitarianism.

    If the phrase ‘international law’ is to have any meaning, the laws of nations have to yield to universal principles and laws. Sorrowful Sudan is a good place to start.

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