- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 17, 2008



Justice rather than politics should prevail in Sudan. This is the plea of 130 Holocaust scholars who have written a letter to the International Criminal Court urging that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir be brought to trial for crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. Mr. Bashir was indicted by chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo in July on the charge of using state power in an attempt to eliminate three ethnic groups in Darfur. More than 300,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million have been displaced since the conflict began in 2003.

Mr. Moreno-Ocampo is waiting for an arrest warrant. The judges on the ICC have not yet made a ruling. The Holocaust scholars who presented the letter - experts from the United states, Germany, Israel, England, Russia, Australia and Canada - fear that attempts to bring Mr. Bashir to justice will be blocked by countries who want to protect the brutal Sudanese leader. The Arab League and the African Union have sought a U.N. resolution to suspend the indictment; they will have the support of Russia and China who are permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.

Critics of the indictment insist that pursuing an arrest might create a backlash against U.N. peacekeeping forces in the area and aid workers. Yet, the court is providing moral clarity. Its ruling can help in four ways. The most important is that it establishes an international framework for future action. Once a clear culprit is identified and an arrest warrant is issued, the governments that seek to protect Mr. Bashir will come under increasing pressure to relent. There will be a greater spotlight on their inability to impose crippling sanctions - such as pressure on Russia and China to stop trading oil and arms with an international pariah. International condemnation can also lead to a turn of the tide within Sudan. This is especially potent amongst Mr. Bashir’s allies who may see less advantage in their continued support of his regime. We have seen in the past - such as in the case of Slobodan Milosevic of Yugoslavia, for example - that condemnation by an international tribunal is in fact effective in setting in motion external and internal pressures that lead to the deposition of war criminals and the end of brutal regimes.

The Holocaust scholars who are standing firm for the victims of genocide are to be applauded. Mr. Moreno-Ocampo needs a speedy ruling by the judges in order to put teeth into his indictment. Once an arrest warrant is issued, international opinion will continue to rally against those governments that stand in the way of holding a corrupt and evil regime accountable for its heinous crimes.

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