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July 21, 2008

Karadzic, Bashir: International Law Has a Pretty Good Week
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

For an institution that has been ridiculed, assaulted and accused of non-existence in recent years, international law -- and more important, international accountability for crimes committed against one's own citizens -- is having a pretty darn good run right now.

Today comes the news that, in response to yet another round of European Union pressure, the Serbian government itself arrested indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic -- a far cry from the days of NATO troops chasing him futilely around the Bosnian countryside seven years ago.  Looks as if the Hague is his next stop.  (Karadzic, in case you've forgotten, ordered the killings of 7500 Bosnian Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995, shelled Sarajevo, and used UN peacekeepers as human shields.  I do wonder whether the Serbs waited until now to cooperate to make a point about their distaste for the hard-charging prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, who recently stepped down.)

And last week we had the International Criminal Court indictment of Sudanese President Omar Bashir for his leadership in the mass killings in Darfur.  To be reminded of what he has done, check out the ENOUGH Project's list of his misdeeds here.  For an explanation of how the indictment procedural schedule provides a three-month window of opportunity for Security Council members to pressure Bashir to get serious about a peace process, read here or listen to Bob Wright and me discuss it on bloggingheads here.

Human Rights Watch's Richard Dicker has a sober, net positive appraisal of the ICC's first five years here.  Suspects indicted in four countries but no one brought to trial; a first trial stopped because of problematic evidence rules; financial and law enforcement support from member governments that is not what it should be.

Speaking of member governments, you will notice something interesting about this trend -- from the EU in the Balkans to the states parties to the ICC, progress toward a small-bore, excruciatingly slow but nonetheless forward-moving mechanism of international justice has taken place pretty much without the United States or even, in the case of the ICC, against the will of our government.  That business about being the sole superpower and nothing of importance being decided without us?  Maybe think again.   


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I'd be a little more convinced that the ICC indictment of Bashir amounts to "progress" if someone could explain the endgame to me. The ICC has basically called for regime change in the Sudan, but China and Russia block even mild sanctions against Sudan in the Security Council and are now making noises about suspending the prosecution. The Arab League and African Union have already denounced the indictment. How does this end with anything but a demonstration of the ICC's impotence?

Though the Thomas Lubanga case was a bit of an embarrassment in the other direction.

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