In 2005, after I had long been covering the atrocities committed by Sudan’s president, Gen. Omar Hassanal-Bashir, on black Christians and animists in the south - followed by his genocide against black Muslims in Darfur - I saw an urgent message in The Washington Post by two senators, Democrat Barack Obama of Illinois and Republican Sam Brownback of Kansas. With the United Nations characteristically useless, the senators gave me some hope this holocaust could be ended.
In “Policy adrift in Darfur,” the senators (Mr. Brownback has actually gone to Darfur) wrote: “If the United States does not change its approach to Darfur, an already grim situation is likely to spiral out of control. … When the history of this tragedy is written, nobody will remember how many times officials visited the region or how much humanitarian aid was delivered. They will only remember the death toll.”
As the death toll continued to mount, there was hope again on March 4 when the International Criminal Court at last issued an arrest warrant for Africa’s Hitler, Gen. al-Bashir. He is charged with five crimes against humanity: murder, extermination, forcible transfer (of civilian populations), torture and rape.
This personification of evil will also be tried, if he can be apprehended, for two war crimes: intentionally directing attacks against civilians and for pillaging, his forces stealing livestock and burning villages, with black infants sometimes tossed into the flames. Strangely, the charge of genocide is not included, although there is ample evidence that Gen. al-Bashir fully intended to destroy the black tribes of Darfur - as his ruthless Janjaweed killers kept gleefully assuring their victims.
Also on March 4, before an orchestrated, huge crowd in Khartoum, Gen. al-Bashir, as he was dancing and swaying, told the ICC to “eat” its arrest warrant while the cheering crowd burned in effigy the court’s undeviating chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, who clearly should have been Time magazine’s “Man of the Year.”
In further strutting his contempt of the ICC, Gen. al-Bashir commanded 13 foreign humanitarian organizations to get out of the country within 24 hours as his thugs ransacked their offices, taking computers and whatever cash they could find.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, at last summoning what appeared to be real clear anger at the bloodthirsty head of a sovereign state, emphasized that 4.7 million of Gen. al-Bashir’s people are in need of aid. These are such basic needs as food, drinking water and medical care.
Amid clinics closing and deteriorating sanitation, such infectious diseases as cholera will spread. On March 6, The Washington Times and the Associated Press quoted World Health Organization spokeswoman Fadela Chaib on an outbreak of meningitis in Nyala, south of Darfur. Precisely in that area the Dutch branch of Doctors Without Borders was carrying out meningitis vaccinations. But this indispensable humanitarian organization was one of the 13 expelled by Gen. al-Bashir.
Said one of its ousted workers, who had been assigned to one of Darfur’s largest refugee camps, “People have nothing there. The meningitis outbreak alone could lead to thousands of deaths.” (The Washington Post, March 5.)
On Feb. 21, anticipating the ICC’s issuance of this first arrest warrant for a sitting head of state, Gen. al-Bashir’s rightly feared head of Sudan’s National Security and Intelligence Service, Salah Gosh (a sometimes CIA Intelligence source about terrorists in Africa, but not in Khartoum) has warned anyone anywhere who intended to actually arrest his commander in chief:
“Anyone who attempts to put his hands to execute [International Criminal Court] plans, we will cut his hands, head and parts because it is a non-negotiable issue.” And with unexpected frankness, he added (as reported by the invaluable sudantribune.com):
“We [the government] were Islamic extremists, then became moderate and civilized, believing in peace and life for everyone. However, we will revert back to how we were if necessary. There is nothing any easier than that.” Mr. Gosh somehow omitted saying actually when the former National Islamic Front government had become civilized.
Presumably, Gen. al-Bashir is a wanted man anywhere he travels. The ICC’s court registrar, Silvana Arbia, declares that the obligation to surrender Gen. al-Bashir falls on all 108 countries that are part of the ICC; members of the U.N. Security Council; “and any other state as may be necessary.” And chief Prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo insists:
“The judges were clear. There is no immunity for heads of states before the ICC. As soon as al-Bashir travels through international air space, he can be arrested. It will be two months or two years, but he will face justice.”
Will he really be in the dock at The Hague?
Next week: With Gen. al-Bashir still a free genocidaire, the only realistic way, so far, to ensure he and justice will finally meet begins with, as I shall explain, no-fly zones over Sudan. It will be up to NATO; the European Union, particularly France; and President Obama. George W. Bush was the first head of state to call this Sudan holocaust genocide. But it continued, and grew. Barack Obama’s administration is “urgently” reviewing what should be done. We’ll see.
Nat Hentoff is a nationally renowned authority on the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights. He is a member of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.