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

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

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: how to spell BBQ and other linguistic irregularities

Guy Keleny
 

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own