Al-Bashir's arrest: a good decision that is impossible to implement



MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Andrei Fedyashin) - The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague has issued an arrest warrant for Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, wanted on war crimes charges. It is the ICC's first arrest warrant against a sitting head of state.

The decision has been taken, but it is like hot coals in a fire - you need to take them out but fear scorching your hands in the process.

The fighting in Darfur between ethnic African rebels and the Arab-led Khartoum government and Arab militiamen began in February 2003. The rebels want independence for Darfur, a large, arid region of western Sudan.

Al-Bashir, who faces charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, is accused by the ICC of overseeing an anti-insurgency campaign in the rebel province in which atrocities were carried out against civilians.

At least 300,000 people have died in Darfur in the fighting, and 2.7 million people have been driven from their homes, most to camps in Darfur and neighboring Chad since 2003. Even many who remain in their homes depend on international aid to survive.

If law relied on the principle that the guilty must be put behind bars whoever he or she is, quite a few current leaders, including in Western countries, would have been sentenced and incarcerated. I am not going to name them, for accusations of genocide are a highly delicate issue, as any respected lawyer will tell you. In fact, the ground is so delicate that they advise against treading on it.

Criminals, including international ones, must be put behind bars, but the world is known to have put off justice "in the name of peace." Unfortunately, this tolerance allows many people, in particular in conflict-ridden Africa and Asia, to think they should wait, close their eyes to crimes, unless they want to face difficult "consequences."

This faulty reasoning is based on confrontation between the ethics of principles and the ethics of consequences. But it cannot be abandoned outright because it developed long ago and has become a fixture in international relations. All major players in the West use it selectively, when and if it suits them, which is unfair.

A relevant example is the invasion of Iraq. According to the ethics of principles, the UN should have denounced it and ostracized its organizers, and possibly sent the case to the ICC. But the ethics of consequences allowed it not to do so.

The African Union and the League of Arab States have probably taken the side of the Sudanese president simply because they reject any Western actions and decisions on human rights violations as directed against Africans, Asians and Native Americans.

Russia and China are also against Al-Bashir's arrest, arguing - with good reason - that it would only aggravate tensions and provoke new violence. Besides, the Darfur rebels would never negotiate with a president who has been denounced by the international community.

On the other hand, some explain the two countries' decision by the fact that China buys two-thirds of Sudan's oil exports and Russia has economic interests in Sudan.

In short, the ICC's decision is a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, the world is not yet prepared for acting according to the ethnics of principles.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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