Born in a more hopeful era, when citizens of the world committed to stamping out injustice and holding genocidal dictators and warlords accountable for crimes against humanity, the International Criminal Court in the Hague suffered a major blow on Monday when Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir escaped South Africa on his presidential jet, foiling yet again a six-year quest to bring him to justice.
The 71-year-old, who has ruled Sudan with an iron fist for two and a half decades, stands accused by the ICC of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide related to the 2003 conflict in Darfur, which claimed more than 300,000 lives in a gruesome orgy of decapitation, rape and torture committed by government militias. Al-Bashir denies the charges.
So confident was al-Bashir in his impunity that he landed in Johannesburg on June 13 to attend the opening of the African Union summit and mug for the cameras, despite the fact that, as a signatory to the convention that created the ICC, South Africa is legally obliged to arrest the Sudanese president and transfer him to the Netherlands. The South African authorities did not. Instead they allowed him to leave the country on the second day of the conference, despite a judicial order calling for him to remain.
Al-Bashir’s willingness to travel to Johannesburg in spite of two international arrest warrants is an indication that not only has the ICC lost credibility, but that South Africa, once a beacon for justice and human rights on the continent, has bowed to political expediency. “This marks a moment of historic failure,” says Eric Reeves, a professor and a Sudan expert at Smith College in the U.S., and author of A Long Day’s Dying: Critical Moments in the Darfur Genocide. “If the only body that is capable of taking on the massive, indisputable atrocities that have taken place in Darfur over the past 13 years, if that body is flouted by sheer machinations of an indicted génocidaires, who is allowed to leave a country that is a signatory to the ICC, then the court is clearly deeply troubled.”
Read more at time.com