A Potential ICC Trial for Bashir Gives Hope to the People of Darfur

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The newly formed transitional government of Sudan took a big step in February in announcing its openness to turn former president Omar al Bashir over to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to face charges for his crimes against the people of Darfur. For many, this announcement has been decades in the making. Bashir’s violent rule has left hundreds of thousands dead, millions displaced, and an entire generation without peace. Whether he will actually face justice remains to be seen, but there exists now a spark of hope.

 

How Did We Get Here?

 Bashir came to power through a military coup in 1989. It was a quick spiral into violent rule that came to an apex in 2003. At that time he directed his military to intentionally target civilians in Darfur in his campaign against armed groups in the region including the Justice Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A). Death, trauma, and displacement were left in Bashir’s wake. Civilians were murdered, women were raped, villages were burned to the ground, and entire communities were destroyed.

As a result of his crimes between 2003 and 2008, Bashir is wanted by the ICC on five counts of crimes against humanity, two counts of war crimes, and three counts of genocide. Over the years, he has flaunted his ICC warrants; traveling in spite of them, and living carefree.

In the face of decades of violence, the people of Darfur have pushed the international community to bring justice to Sudan. Human rights groups have called governments across the globe, the United Nations, and the ICC to step in, to arrest Bashir, and to bring him to justice. Yet, justice has always seemed out of reach. With Sudan not signatory to the ICC’s Rome Statute, and the international community unwilling to fully intervene to stop the genocide in Darfur, its citizens were left with nothing more than promises of future justice, future peace. In the meantime, an entire generation has grown up in refugee camps, unable to build stable, fulfilling lives.

 

The Announcement

When the transitional government announced its intention to cooperate with the ICC in the case of Bashir, shockwaves swept across the human rights realm, but most intensely across the Darfuri community around the globe. Justice for Bashir is something many have wanted, but never believed would come.

Here are just a few reflections from those most affected by Bashir’s violence:

 

Let me say, this is unbelievable. I didn’t think one-day al-Bashir [would] face justice. While he was yelling in front of the national community, [he said] no Sudanese can be handed to ICC! But all of the talk [from] friends, human rights experts, and activists became a step [toward] reducing the violence. The other titans will feel scared and [have] no place to escape. I knew that in this world [there was] no place for scapegoats. However, they will be scapegoats for their bad behaviors and actions. Thank you to all the activists. – Oumda

 

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Sometimes dreams come true. Maybe this is the moment that we were waiting for, for [that] long time we spent in refugee camps. I know life [can be] peace[ful] and just. This will not come if the criminals [are] not handed to the ICC. This will be an example to others who want to commit crimes. Yes, my friends, I heard the news of al-Bashir on social media, but I myself [could] not believe that. I hope [it] to be true. I hope everyone can get this right after his judgment. My thanks go to my friend Gabriel for your contribution to human rights. Thank you to the United States for their support and for standing with us since the war erupted in Darfur. My great thanks to the people that established the ICC just to protect poor people. – Souli

 

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It seems impossible until it will be done. I believe the bank of justice is not bankrupt. Soon[er] or later al-Bashir will face the trial at ICC. Thanks to all the team that had worked to deliver Sudan’s human violation to the international community. – Murtada

 

 Will Bashir Go to the ICC?

There has been debate about whether Bashir will actually make it to the ICC. Sudanese journalist Yousra Elbagir was quick to point out that the wording of the announcement did not specifically say, “send” him. At this point, the transitional government has not committed to physically delivering Bashir to The Hague, but is instead looking at ways to try him from Sudan. This could mean via video conference, local tribunal, etc. This is complicated by the fact that according to the ICC it, “does not try individuals unless they are present in the courtroom.”

So, we will have to wait and see. In the meantime, there is hope. Hope for justice. Hope for the people of Darfur. Hope for the first time in a long time.