For almost two decades, Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir has
waged foul wars on ethnic groups within his country that happened to
live on oil- or mineral-rich land. Today, the international
community is finally close to holding him accountable. Though it
could make for a rocky transition, it is the key to peace.
Even before Darfur, aerial bombing, murder, and rape seemed to be
his government's tools for settling scores with the mainly African
Christians of southern Sudan. In that 23-year war for resource
control, just under 2 million people died as a result of mass
In 2005, the US brokered a peace deal that divided control of the
oil fields. But it did not address the crimes committed. And by the
time it was signed, Mr. Bashir was back to the same, in Darfur.
This summer, however, things changed. The chief prosecutor of the
International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, requested an
arrest warrant against Bashir on suspicion of genocide. A flood of
worst-case predictions followed. A fear that the situation will
worsen has increased. And so have worries about chances for any
meaningful peace process.
The pressure is now mounting on the United Nations Security
Council to defer the ICC proceedings - as soon as this month -
before the court judges decide the fate of the warrant request. This
political emergency brake was meant to be used only when the
interests of justice and peace collide.
Bashir is clearly doing his best to convince the world that the
call for his arrest will indeed collide with peace in Darfur. He
recently sent a diplomatic mission to Security Council member
states, promising renewed peace and possible deals. Back home, his
troops attacked Darfur's largest refugee camp, killing dozens.
In fact, the most serious threat to peace and security in Sudan
is Bashir himself. His regime has the power to make the Darfurians'
life worse yet. It can also endanger international peacekeepers and
humanitarian workers, upset the fragile peace in the south, and
continue to destabilize its neighbor, Chad. In the past, Khartoum
has often used its power in unsettling ways - and many believe that
it would not hesitate to do it again.
But is pursuing the course of justice the right answer to this
threat? Within the Security Council, divisions run deep on that
question. About half of member states support a deferral, and many
others still sit carefully on the fence.
In order to credibly pull the brake on justice, the Security
Council would have to promptly ensure real peace in Darfur,
including a military force strong enough to back it up. …