Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Charging president Bashir of Sudan with Genocide

Finally! After 5 years of inaction by the international community, Sudanese president Omar Hassan Ahmed Bashir has been charged with genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), issued the charges after years of gathering evidences that were plain for all to see.

A predictable reaction followed: Charging Sudan’s president with genocide may cause him to commit even greater violence against Darfuris. It may worsen the plight of the surviving refugees. Aid may not reach them. The few peacekeepers may be thrown out of Sudan. And on and on.

What people forget is the brutal statistics on the ground. Over 2 million people have been killed, Muslims at the hands of Muslims, and there is no sign that the carnage will stop anytime soon. Unless president Bashir is convinced that his reign of terror must come to an end, he will continue to act with impunity. The ICC charges have put him on the defensive. That is a good sign.

What I found shocking was the general indifference of Muslims to the carnage in Darfur. While a cartoon could drive Muslims to frenzy, ethnic Muslims being slaughtered by the Muslim janjaweed militia, and actively supported by the Khartoum regime, hardly ruffled our feathers. In the five years of the Darfur genocide, I rarely heard a Friday sermon on it in my local mosques, nor came across any conference on the issue in the San Francisco Bay Area where I live.

President Bashir belongs to the same murderous group as Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic and Liberia’s Charles Taylor. The Hague charges offer hope to millions of Sudanese who may yet survive to experience a life devoid of violence and the constant fear of death. Making president Bashir and his associates accountable for their crimes is the surest way of preventing more genocide in the world.

P.S. June 22 - After 13 years of eluding capture, the Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic has been arrested by the Serbian police on June 21. He is expected to be transferred to The Hague soon to stand trial for his role in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in which 8,000 Muslim men and boys were murdered after Bosnian Serb forces seized the United Nations “safe area.” The long arm of International Law is finally reaching tyrants who commit genocide, mass murders and "ethnic cleansing" under their watch. In a world that often appears to be teetering on the brink of a catastrophe of one sort or another, the arrest of Karadzic offers hope that the center can indeed hold and that the best are the ones who are full of passionate intensity. The question now is, how long do we have to wait before Omar Bashir joins Mr. Karadzic in the Hague?

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