Commentary Magazine


Topic: Omar al-Bashir

Should Omar al-Bashir Be Arrested?

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is a war criminal. That he is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands in Darfur and elsewhere is disputed by few besides Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and blogger Juan Cole. Regardless, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has indicted Bashir and ordered his arrest.

Bashir will now put the White House’s embrace of the United Nations to the test. Sudan has announced that it is seeking a U.S. visa for Bashir to come to the United Nations General Assembly later this month. The question now arises: While it seems clear the United States should issue the visa as part of its role as host of the United Nations, many activists are also suggesting that Bashir should be arrested when he steps onto U.S. soil. The ICC has issued a statement “remind[ing] the United States of America of the two outstanding warrants of arrest against Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir and the requests for arrest and surrender.”

What should the United States do?

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Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is a war criminal. That he is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands in Darfur and elsewhere is disputed by few besides Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and blogger Juan Cole. Regardless, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has indicted Bashir and ordered his arrest.

Bashir will now put the White House’s embrace of the United Nations to the test. Sudan has announced that it is seeking a U.S. visa for Bashir to come to the United Nations General Assembly later this month. The question now arises: While it seems clear the United States should issue the visa as part of its role as host of the United Nations, many activists are also suggesting that Bashir should be arrested when he steps onto U.S. soil. The ICC has issued a statement “remind[ing] the United States of America of the two outstanding warrants of arrest against Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir and the requests for arrest and surrender.”

What should the United States do?

I tend to agree with Julian Ku—law professor, prolific blogger on issues relating to sovereignty, and a college classmate—in his opinion expressed at Opiniojuris:

If the U.S. arrests Bashir, they are violating at least one, and maybe two, important international legal obligations.  And, as the ICC chamber makes clear, the U.S. has no legal obligation to detain Bashir.  So from a purely legal point of view, this is a no-brainer: the U.S. should grant Bashir a visa, and let him come and go unmolested. In this light, we seem to be back to the “illegal but legitimate” conversation that we were having over a possible U.S. strike into Syria.  Kevin’s post on that comparison makes a similar point. But here is a difficult question for international lawyers.  Arresting Bashir would plainly be illegal, but it would almost certainly be legitimate to most people, like Mia Farrow… Still, is legitimacy enough to act illegally?  And if it is, why wasn’t that standard good enough to justify a US strike into Syria?

Regardless, the Bashir visit should provide the plainest test to those in Obama’s constituency that place the ICC, responsibility to protect, and the sense of the United Nations above other considerations. Bashir should be treated like a pariah and U.S. officials should not make him feel welcome, but neither should they molest him. That might be unfortunate, but so long as the UN remains in New York, it is fact. That Obama’s ICC-embracing constituency will see that their emperor has no clothes is the only silver lining to the situation.

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The Muslim Brotherhood’s Shameful Nobel Laureate

When Islamist radicals in Pakistan’s tribal territories shot 14-year-old schoolgirl Malala Yousefzai, the world condemned the senseless act of terrorism. The Pakistani Taliban had, like the Chechen Islamists who massacred children in Beslan nearly a decade ago, simply miscalculated that even those prone to support extremists and terrorists draw the line at targeting children (or, at least non-Jewish children).

In the wake of the assassination attempt on the young advocate for girls’ education, there was one so-called peace activist who was noticeably silent: 2011 Nobel Laureate Tawakkul Karman. Karman was selected not only because she was a Yemeni political activist—rising up courageously to challenge the dictatorship of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh—but also because she was affiliated with a Muslim Brotherhood affiliate. The head of the five-member Norwegian Nobel Committee told the Associated Press, “Karman belongs to a Muslim movement with links to the Muslim Brotherhood, ‘which in the West is perceived as a threat to democracy.’ He added that ‘I don’t believe that. There are many signals that, that kind of movement can be an important part of the solution.’”

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When Islamist radicals in Pakistan’s tribal territories shot 14-year-old schoolgirl Malala Yousefzai, the world condemned the senseless act of terrorism. The Pakistani Taliban had, like the Chechen Islamists who massacred children in Beslan nearly a decade ago, simply miscalculated that even those prone to support extremists and terrorists draw the line at targeting children (or, at least non-Jewish children).

In the wake of the assassination attempt on the young advocate for girls’ education, there was one so-called peace activist who was noticeably silent: 2011 Nobel Laureate Tawakkul Karman. Karman was selected not only because she was a Yemeni political activist—rising up courageously to challenge the dictatorship of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh—but also because she was affiliated with a Muslim Brotherhood affiliate. The head of the five-member Norwegian Nobel Committee told the Associated Press, “Karman belongs to a Muslim movement with links to the Muslim Brotherhood, ‘which in the West is perceived as a threat to democracy.’ He added that ‘I don’t believe that. There are many signals that, that kind of movement can be an important part of the solution.’”

Karman did not hesitate, however, to condemn the Egyptian government’s crackdown in Cairo—even before the recent violence. She found no time to worry about the Muslim Brotherhood’s targeting of Christians or ousted President Mohamed Morsi’s abuse of power, but violence perpetrated against Islamists was, for the Nobel Laureate, another thing entirely.

Herein lies the problem: For too many affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood or its affiliates, there exists different standards for Islamists and for non-Islamists. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan—himself leading a Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated group—famously exculpated indicted war criminal Omar Al-Bashir because the Koran cleared the Sudanese Islamist president. Karman delegitimized herself when she refused to speak up for an innocent school girl targeted by militant Islamists. If she wants us to believe she is an honest broker and carries any weight in her support for Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood now, she should be quickly disabused of that notion.

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Obama Shouldn’t Abandon South Sudan

For a few years, the plight of the people of the Darfur region of Sudan captured the imagination of human rights activists in the United States when the depredations of the Islamist government of that country assumed a level of horror that many branded genocide. A series of peace initiatives including an agreement that allowed the southern region of the country to declare independence seemingly relieved well-meaning Americans of the responsibility for caring about what happens in the Horn of Africa. But the outbreak of what may well be a war that will bring a fresh round of atrocities ought to get the attention of not only the human rights crowd but President Obama.

Reuters reports that Sudan has bombed a market town in South Sudan as part of a border dispute over oil rich land and the complicated economic relationship between the two countries. Sudan’s leader, the indicted war criminal Omar al-Bashir, has stated that he isn’t interested in negotiating with the South Sudanese government. And in what may not be a coincidence, a Muslim mob burned a church in Sudan that was frequented by South Sudanese, a reminder that the dispute between the Muslim north and the largely non-Muslim south has always had a religious aspect to it. But with Russia and China reportedly continuing to provide weapons and training to Khartoum, the onus now falls on President Obama to back up the speech he gave yesterday at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum about preventing atrocities.

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For a few years, the plight of the people of the Darfur region of Sudan captured the imagination of human rights activists in the United States when the depredations of the Islamist government of that country assumed a level of horror that many branded genocide. A series of peace initiatives including an agreement that allowed the southern region of the country to declare independence seemingly relieved well-meaning Americans of the responsibility for caring about what happens in the Horn of Africa. But the outbreak of what may well be a war that will bring a fresh round of atrocities ought to get the attention of not only the human rights crowd but President Obama.

Reuters reports that Sudan has bombed a market town in South Sudan as part of a border dispute over oil rich land and the complicated economic relationship between the two countries. Sudan’s leader, the indicted war criminal Omar al-Bashir, has stated that he isn’t interested in negotiating with the South Sudanese government. And in what may not be a coincidence, a Muslim mob burned a church in Sudan that was frequented by South Sudanese, a reminder that the dispute between the Muslim north and the largely non-Muslim south has always had a religious aspect to it. But with Russia and China reportedly continuing to provide weapons and training to Khartoum, the onus now falls on President Obama to back up the speech he gave yesterday at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum about preventing atrocities.

U.S. influence was a major factor in the ability of the south to win its independence from Sudan. While it is possible that the policies of South Sudan’s belligerent President Salva Kiir may not be without fault in this dispute, there’s little question that Bashir, the man who was largely responsible for mass murder in Darfur, is itching to gain some revenge for losing the south. The question is, will the United States stand by idly while the forces of the north assail the pro-Western government of South Sudan?

It is understandable that the Obama administration is wary of diving into a nasty spat in a region that has been the venue for a long series of proxy wars in which Russian (and now Chinese) allies faced off against friends of the West. But the notion that South Sudan, which only gained its formal independence last July, should be allowed to be bombed by the government of an Islamist war criminal without a strong American response is unacceptable.

It shouldn’t be too hard for Americans to pick a side in this otherwise messy dispute. For decades, the non-Muslims of the south fought to resist domination by Muslims who wished to impose their own religious laws on the country. It was no accident that the people of South Sudan looked to America for help. The new government has also expressed its friendship for Israel, which it views as a nation similarly assailed by Muslims who cannot tolerate sovereignty exercised by those who do not share their faith.

As COMMENTARY contributor Ben Cohen wrote in a column for the JointMedia News Service, the peril of South Sudan ought to particularly engage American Jews who expended so much energy rallying to save the people of Darfur. For years, some leftists and sympathizers with Israel’s foes have claimed the effort to focus attention on Islamist genocide in Darfur was a Zionist plot. Now that the same government that perpetrated crimes against humanity in Darfur (and for which its leader was never brought to justice) is looking to attack South Sudan, the same activists who were prepared to treat human rights in the Horn of Africa as a Jewish priority must not lose interest in the country. President Obama has called for more negotiations,but Bashir’s bombing of the south shows just how much he cares about the opinion of the United States. The president, who has never made human rights a foreign policy priority but who wishes to be seen as caring about such issues, must not let the bombing of South Sudan go unanswered.

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Mia Farrow Speaks Up Again

Mia Farrow has been sounding the alarm about Sudan and risking the ire of her movie pals by calling out Obama for his abominable human rights record. She is at it again:

Last week U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that although he remains supportive of “international efforts” to bring Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to justice, the Obama administration is also pursuing “locally owned accountability and reconciliation mechanisms in light of the recommendations made by the African Union’s high-level panel on Darfur.” … Perversely, Mr. Gration has now thrown U.S. government support to a [African Union] tribunal that does not and probably will never exist. Even if it did, the “locally owned accountability” he refers to is not feasible under prevailing political conditions, as any Sudan-based court will be controlled by the perpetrators themselves.

This is a far cry from candidate Obama. And Farrow isn’t shy about reminding her readers that Obama has badly let down human rights activists — and more important, the suffering 3 million Sudanese:

When Barack Obama was elected president of the United States, hope abounded, even in Darfur’s bleak refugee camps. Darfuris believed this son of Africa could understand their suffering, end the violence that has taken so much from them, and bring Mr. Bashir to justice. The refugees hoped that “Yes we can” was meant for them too. They believed President Obama would bring peace and protection to Darfur and would settle for nothing less than true justice. … Such hopes did not last long.

Her advice is clear-headed and equally applicable to many rogue regimes that continue to brutalize their people: “lead a diplomatic offensive to convince the world to isolate [war criminal Omar] al-Bashir as a fugitive from justice.” (I’m not a fan of the International Criminal Court, in which she suggests trying him, but in this case, there may be no alternative.) But the Obama team is not in the isolating business. Rather, Obama engages thugs, sends envoys hither and yon to accomplish nothing, and leaves the oppressed to their own devices. Obama’s academic exercise in “smart diplomacy” has failed, and in Iran, Cuba, Sudan, Burma, Eygpt, China, and elsewhere, the despots cheer.

Mia Farrow has been sounding the alarm about Sudan and risking the ire of her movie pals by calling out Obama for his abominable human rights record. She is at it again:

Last week U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that although he remains supportive of “international efforts” to bring Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to justice, the Obama administration is also pursuing “locally owned accountability and reconciliation mechanisms in light of the recommendations made by the African Union’s high-level panel on Darfur.” … Perversely, Mr. Gration has now thrown U.S. government support to a [African Union] tribunal that does not and probably will never exist. Even if it did, the “locally owned accountability” he refers to is not feasible under prevailing political conditions, as any Sudan-based court will be controlled by the perpetrators themselves.

This is a far cry from candidate Obama. And Farrow isn’t shy about reminding her readers that Obama has badly let down human rights activists — and more important, the suffering 3 million Sudanese:

When Barack Obama was elected president of the United States, hope abounded, even in Darfur’s bleak refugee camps. Darfuris believed this son of Africa could understand their suffering, end the violence that has taken so much from them, and bring Mr. Bashir to justice. The refugees hoped that “Yes we can” was meant for them too. They believed President Obama would bring peace and protection to Darfur and would settle for nothing less than true justice. … Such hopes did not last long.

Her advice is clear-headed and equally applicable to many rogue regimes that continue to brutalize their people: “lead a diplomatic offensive to convince the world to isolate [war criminal Omar] al-Bashir as a fugitive from justice.” (I’m not a fan of the International Criminal Court, in which she suggests trying him, but in this case, there may be no alternative.) But the Obama team is not in the isolating business. Rather, Obama engages thugs, sends envoys hither and yon to accomplish nothing, and leaves the oppressed to their own devices. Obama’s academic exercise in “smart diplomacy” has failed, and in Iran, Cuba, Sudan, Burma, Eygpt, China, and elsewhere, the despots cheer.

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