Trying a president

SUDAN'S President Omar Al Beshir has formally been charged by the International Criminal Court for his role in Darfur. ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has sought an arrest warrant against Beshir, charging him with genocide and other crimes against humanity for a five-year campaign of violence in the country's Darfur region.

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Published: Tue 15 Jul 2008, 9:58 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 4:01 PM

The chief prosecutor presented his "evidence" against Beshir in the world court at The Hague yesterday. The judges must now decide whether to issue the warrant. Given the history and past record of Moreno-Ocampo, they are likely to oblige the chief prosecutor.

Doubtless, this is going to be the most explosive case the world court has taken up since its inception. The very fact that the move to try Beshir has so sharply divided the world opinion goes to underscore the sensitive nature of the case. Given the current West-Muslim world gulf, it's no surprise it's being seen as another attempt by the West to "teach us" a lesson. The violent protests in Khartoum after the reports about the possible indictment of Beshir leave no one in doubt that the Arab-Muslim street sees it as a "Western plot against the Muslim world".

Which is why the ICC move to bring Sudan's president to justice is not the best way to help the people of Darfur. As an article in these pages argued yesterday, by doing so the ICC could actually end up exacerbating the conflict in Darfur. We all identify with the suffering people of Darfur. Everyone in the Middle East and the world at large shares their pain and anguish, as they fight daily battles for survival.

This paper was among the first in the region to talk about the Darfur conflict and repeatedly raise its voice for the protection and rights of its people. Nearly 300,000 lives have been lost in Darfur. Millions are homeless and are fighting hunger and disease on a daily basis, not to mention the numerous blood-thirsty militias and gangs. It's a great humanitarian tragedy, almost as big as Iraq.

And the government of President Beshir could have done more to protect its people in Darfur by dealing firmly, and more effectively, with the militias like Janjaweed. It could have done more to work with international agencies to help end the conflict and rehabilitate the victims. But it is unfair and unreasonable to accuse Beshir himself of planning and being involved in the genocide.

The Sudan leader did not plan and perpetrate the outrage in Darfur as Slobodan Milosevic, the former Yugoslavian president, and his thugs did in Bosnia, Kosovo and elsewhere. The people of Darfur deserve to get justice; but not by trying President Beshir. If we are talking indirect responsibility and complicity, then there will be similar demands over Iraq, Palestine and other conflicts too.

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