The body, which is a tribunal, formed in 2002 serves to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression. The court can exercise its jurisdiction only when national courts are unwilling or unable to investigate or prosecute such crimes. Although the court is not in any form part of the United Nations system, the Security Council, acting on the basis of Chapter VII of the UN Charter, has the right to refer situations and to defer an investigation or prosecution for a renewable period of one year.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has asked the Sudan president to cooperate fully with the ICC’s decision on the war crimes charges relating to Darfur and urged him to immediately guarantee civilian protection in Darfur. Speaking to the press recently on the sidelines of the African Union Summit, Ban stated, “This factor of the ICC is distinct and separate from the United Nations. The ICC is an independent judiciary. I will wait for the independent view of the ICC as far as the arrest warrant is concerned.”
Although the United States and several other countries, including Israel, are not members of this tribunal, there are indications that US President Barack Obama favours proceeding with a war crimes indictment against the leader of Sudan and the ICC issuing it. “We support the ICC and its pursuit of those who’ve perpetrated war crimes,” said Ben Chang, a spokesman for National Security Adviser James Jones. “We see no reason to support deferral” of the indictment against Sudanese President Bashir.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said the Sudanese bombing of rebel groups in a Darfur town was in “anticipation of an arrest warrant,” and called on Bashir to stop the bombing and permit a joint UN-African Union peacekeeping force into the area.
“The onus is on the government to halt all aerial bombardment, to allow (peacekeepers) to have complete freedom of movement, and to ... effectively carry out its mandate to protect civilians,” she said. Very noble words from a country that continues to exercise selective politics. Where were such comforting words when the Israeli holocaust against the civilians of Gaza began? There were no words of indignation when US-supplied Israeli F-16s rained their armaments of death on the defenceless Gazans. Neither had we heard loud protestations against the use of illegal weaponry in the form of white phosphorus incendiary bombs that resulted in such heavy human toll in Gaza.
Writing in Haaretz newspaper, the Israeli activist Gideon Levy stated: “When the cannons eventually fall silent, the time for questions and investigations will be upon us. The mushroom clouds of smoke and dust will dissipate in the pitch-black sky; the fervour, desensitisation and en masse jump on the bandwagon will be forever forgotten and perhaps we will view a clear picture of Gaza in all its grimness. Then we will see the scope of the killing and destruction, the crammed cemeteries and overflowing hospitals, the thousands of wounded and physically disabled, the destroyed houses that remain after this war.
“The questions that will beg to be asked, as cautiously as possible, are who is guilty and who is responsible. The world’s exaggerated willingness to forgive Israel is liable to crack this time. The pilots and gunners, the tank crewmen and infantry soldiers, the generals and thousands who embarked on this war with their fair share of zeal will learn the extent of the evil and indiscriminate nature of their military strikes. They perhaps will not pay any price. They went to battle, but others sent them.
“The public, moral and judicial test will be applied to the three Israeli statesmen who sent the Israel Defence Forces to war against a helpless population, one that did not even have a place to take refuge, in maybe the only war in history against a strip of land enclosed by a fence. Ehud Olmert, Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni will stand at the forefront of the guilty. Two of them were candidates for prime minister, the third is a candidate for criminal indictment. It is inconceivable that they not be held to account for the bloodshed.”
The people of Gaza have been in much the same state for years and years. The Palestinians have been continuously starved, attacked and martyred since the occupation.
This is perhaps why it is imperative for all of us to demand accountability for such war crimes in any which way that happens. Would the International Criminal Court heed such words and behave even-handedly?
Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi commentator. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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