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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Games Developer - HTML5

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With extensive experience and a...

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£26000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Product Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Due to on-going expansion, this leading provid...

Recruitment Genius: Shift Leaders - Front of House Staff - Full Time and Part Time

£6 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a family ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Jeremy Corbyn could be about to pull off a shock victory over the mainstream candidates Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall   

Every club should be like Labour – you can’t join as a new member unless you’re already a member

Mark Steel
The biggest task facing Labour is to re-think the party's economic argument, and then engage in battle with George Osborne and his policies  

There's a mainstream alternative to George Osborne's economics

John Healey
A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

Are you a 50-center?

Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

Hollywood's new diet trends

Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works