Leading Article: The abuses of Darfur must be dealt with in the International Criminal Court

Share
Related Topics
WHAT TO do about Darfur? Overshadowed by the cataclysm of the tsunami and the elections in Iraq, the continuing murder and violence in the Darfur region of western Sudan has been pushed to the edges of international concern. Not for much longer. The massacres have continued unabated, with the particularly horrendous bombing of a village by a Sudanese military aircraft only last week.

At the summit of the African Union in Abuja, Nigeria, over the past two days and at the meeting of foreign ministers of the EU in Brussels yesterday one pressing question has been to the fore. What should the outside world do when the issue comes up for debate at the United Nations later this week on the publication of the organisation's long-awaited formal report into events in that troubled region?

Judging from the sense of satisfaction in the Sudanese government, the UN report will not find a proven case for genocide - a finding which will disappoint Washington and please Khartoum. The formal charge of genocide is a legal construct that would have brought an automatic sequence of punishments in the form of sanctions and, eventually, direct intervention on the Sudanese government.

But for that very reason, the question of genocide has proved something of a diversion as far as dealing with Darfur is concerned. That the most horrendous level of violence has been perpetrated on innocent civilians is not in dispute. Even the most conservative estimates now suggest that some 600,000-800,000 men, women and children have been killed, and a further 1.5 - 2 million civilians displaced, by the depredations of the Janjaweed militia. Nor, from the evidence of those who have managed to escape the killings, is there much doubt of government complicity in these crimes, both active in the form of aerial bombardment and passive in the sense of allowing the violence to continue under their eyes.

The government claims that these actions are isolated cases of uncontrolled brutality by groups over which it has no control. The persistent pattern of massacres over the past year, their continuation in the past few months despite international outrage, and the clear protection afforded to the perpetrators make the protestations of government ministers in Khartoum hollow and mendacious.

Whether the violence is a product of a deliberate campaign to exterminate a people, a "genocide" as such, or whether it is the result of unrestrained brutality by one section of the community against another as part of a struggle for resources and a battle over independence, is beside the point. The fact is that these massacres are happening and they could be stopped.

The question now is how to stop them and how best to bring their perpetrators to justice. Khartoum must be made aware of the international disapproval it now faces and, more importantly, it must be made to understand that the UN means business when it threatens action. Of course, it is not easy. Regional politics - and the reluctance of the Third World countries to join in any campaign that looks as if it is led from the West - makes united action by the UN difficult. But Kofi Annan, speaking to the African Union on Sunday, sounded a clear note of determination and he should be heard. It is time that Sudan was faced with precise actions rather than just noisy disapproval.

As for justice against the perpetrators, that too should take real shape. The International Criminal Court was set up for precisely this sort of situation. There are crimes and there are people believed to have carried them out. The US has always opposed the court, preferring a more general extension of Rwanda-type tribunals on an ad hoc basis. But the course of individual justice, free from political issues of general guilt and blame, is the most effective one. Britain's dithering yesterday in Brussels for fear of offending the US is misplaced. This country was one of the prime movers in founding the ICC. It should support it wholeheartedly as the right instrument for Darfur.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Graduate C#.NET Developer (TDD, ASP.NET, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Graduate C#.NET Developer (TDD, ASP.NET, SQL) Su...

Junior SQL DBA (SQL Server 2012, T-SQL, SSIS) London - Finance

£30000 - £33000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior SQL DBA...

C# Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, MVC-4, HTML5) London

£35000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Web Develop...

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, RSPSS, R, AI, CPLEX, SQL)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Day In a Page

Read Next
On alert: Security cordons around Cardiff Castle ahead of this week’s Nato summit  

Ukraine crisis: Nato is at a crossroads. Where does it go from here?

Richard Shirreff
Mary Beard has helped her troll get a job - and a new start in life  

Mary Beard's troll-taming is a lesson for us all

Katy Guest
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution