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Homepage > Publication Type > Statements > The ICC Indictment of Bashir: A Turning Point for Sudan?

The ICC Indictment of Bashir: A Turning Point for Sudan?

Nairobi/Brussels  |   4 Mar 2009

The International Criminal Court’s indictment of Sudanese President Omar Bashir for atrocity crimes in Darfur provides an opportunity for Sudan and the international community to both fight impunity and bring peace to the country.

In an extended statement released today, The ICC Indictment of Bashir: A Turning Point for Sudan?, Crisis Group examines the consequences of his indictment for crimes against humanity and war crimes, both for Sudan and for the international community. It offers next steps for the ruling majority National Congress Party (NCP) and for the outside world to transform the political institutions and policies that drive conflict in Sudan.

“For the millions of Darfuri victims, this landmark decision provides independent legal recognition of the massive crimes committed against them, and confirms that there are reasonable grounds to believe that Bashir is personally criminally responsible”, says Crisis Group Deputy President Nick Grono. “The international community should affirm its support for the Court and insist that Sudan and other countries cooperate with it as required by the UN Security Council”.

Crisis Group’s statement warns Khartoum of the risks of responding by lashing out against its own citizens in retaliation by declaring a state of emergency or clamping down on internal political opposition. Sudan’s international allies have a strong interest in the country’s stability, and they must pressure the regime to react with restraint. The ICC prosecutor should make it clear that anyone responsible for further atrocities will be held accountable.

Ideally, Bashir would resign and submit to the Court, but this is unlikely. Yet the status quo is unsustainable in the long term. There are increasingly those within the senior ranks of the NCP who believe Bashir’s policy of confrontation with Sudan’s peripheral regions (Darfur, Kordofan, Eastern and Southern Sudan) has been counterproductive. To preserve its economic interests and guarantee its survival, the NCP is likely to look for a way out of a situation, by changing its policies or leadership. To succeed, it will need to change both.

The government should make immediate and genuine moves to establish a credible system of judicial accountability and create an environment conducive for a peaceful settlement of the Darfur conflict, while fully implementing the agreed political reforms mandated under the North-South Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). The signature of a declaration of intent with Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) rebels in Doha is a useful first step to relaunch the Darfur peace process, but too many such commitments have been violated in the past to be taken as a evidence of a change in NCP policy.

As an incentive to drive change in Sudan, the international community should offer to lift sanctions and provide international aid, but only if the NCP provides irreversible and unconditional evidence of its commitment to the peace process. Similarly, the UN Security Council can consider the prospect of a deferral of Bashir’s prosecution, but only after clearly demonstrated progress by the Sudanese government on all of these fronts.

“The ICC indictment provides an opportunity for the NCP to change course and advance the cause of both peace and justice in Sudan, especially in Darfur”, says Francois Grignon, Crisis Group’s Africa Program Director. “But without fundamental change in the country’s policies, pressure can only increase; Bashir and the NCP will become increasingly isolated; and the Sudanese people will continue paying a devastating price”.

 
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