An Historic, Though Problematic, Day for Punishing Violators of Human Rights

Today in an historic and first of its kind, the International Criminal Court (ICC), which came into effect less than a decade ago, indicted a sitting head of state for crimes against humanity and war crimes. Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir has been accused of genocide as well by the second Bush administration, but this was not part of the accusations brought today, despite the prosecutor’s demands. Past heads of state have been indicted while still in power, such as Sebia’s Milosevic or Liberia’s Taylor, but this is the first time any international criminal court has been able to issue an arrest warrant for the leader of any country. Since the civil war in Sudan started again in 2003, the New York Times reports that at least 300,000 people have died and more than 2.5 million have been displaced. Untold numbers of women have been raped.

Genocide requires states who are signatures to the 1948 convention (including the U.S.) to act to “prevent” as well as punish the crime. The problems of who has the power to enforce such international law, and who has the second order power of who can enforce the should be enforcers, remains.

Not all the news is good. Sudan is retaliating: already, Bashir has ordered at least 10 aid groups to leave Sudan immediately, which Oxfam claims may leave up to 600,000 people in danger of death, and the International Rescue Committee says it may have to leave up to 1.75 million people who they support without aid. The ICC is a court without a police force or military to enforce its ruling and it seems far from likely that Bashir will be brought to trial soon.

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