The decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to issue an arrest warrant against Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir was widely condemned by Arab officials. However, reactions in the Arab press were mixed. Many columnists wrote that the ICC decision reflected a discriminatory policy, and that it jeopardized the stability ofÂ SudanÂ and the entire region. Others called onSudanÂ to cooperate with the Arab and African efforts to defer the court proceedings for a year under Article 16 of theÂ RomeStatute, and at the same time to make a determined effort to reach a peace settlement inÂ Darfur. There were also articles that urged Bashir to cooperate with the ICC, criticized the official Arab condemnations, urged the Arabs to acknowledge their responsibility for theÂ DarfurÂ crisis, and welcomed the international efforts to bring Bashir to justice.
Following are excerpts from some of the articles:
Editor of Syrian Daily: All Our Homelands Are in Danger
The editor of the Syrian government dailyÂ Al-Thawra, As’ad ‘Aboud, wrote in an editorial that the international justice system was threatening not only Sudan, but all the Arab countries: “Al-Bashir’s trial is [only] the headline… [In actuality,] the sovereignty of [all] our homelands is being violated. We have been deprived of much, and today they are depriving us of justice…
“Do you realize what the International [Criminal] Court can accomplish, under the headline of Al-Bashir’s trial, in terms of the possibility of partitioning Sudan?! [Do you believe that the] threat of partition hangs only over Sudan?!…
“In our opinion, the situation is very dangerous, and [all] the clamor, objections and popular protest will be to no avail… It is the Arab states that are facing the gravest threat… At this point, the right course of action is to appeal to the Security Council, take legal measures, and challenge the decision of the ICC prosecutor. Our efforts will not cease as long as we continue to feel threatened.”Â
Editorials in Saudi and Egyptian Press: The ICC’s Discriminatory Policy Will Destabilize the Region
The Saudi dailyÂ Al-JazirahÂ stated in an editorial that the international community was using a double standard, with the aim of destabilizing Sudan and the entire region:
“The arrest warrant… proves that the international community, including all its institutions and all the countries that comprise it, uses a double standard… This arrest warrant also proves that the international institutions do not really want peace in the region, [because] this jeopardizes the peace process in Sudan – both [the one] between the North and the South and [the one] in Darfur. In addition, the warrant is a green light to anyone who wishes to offend Islam, and it threatens Sudan’s security and stability…
“Our message to the Sudanese is that they should continue the peace process, because that is the most mature reaction to the [arrest] warrant. It is strange that those who weep over the victims of the violence in Sudan rejoice over the massacre of women, children and elderly in Palestine, and ignore the murder of civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq. This makes us feel that the international community is lawless – or that it applies laws that were made for the benefit of one side and [with the aim of harming] the other.
“We do not believe that this arrest warrant will save the innocents [in Darfur] or achieve justice. More than that, [we believe that] it will undermine [Sudan’s] security. In fact, it constitutes a dangerous precedent that jeopardizes not only the security of Sudan, but the security of the region as a whole, [because the entire] region feels threatened. Whenever it overcomes one crisis, it immediately faces another, and all [these crises] are planned by external forces that are not interested in the region’s security [but] in serving dubious political agendas.”Â
An editorial in the Egyptian government dailyÂ Al-AkhbarÂ stated, in a similar vein: “The decision of the ICC prosecutor-general… comes as no surprise… After storming the eastern gate of the Arab [world by] occupying Iraq and [thus] eliminating it [as a factor in] the power balance between the Arabs and Israel and between the Arabs and Iran, it is only natural that Sudan – which constitutes the Arab’s strategic depth in the south, [i.e.] in Africa – should be next. This is very well known to the ICC, which denies that it is acting out of political motivations or [pursuing] political goals.
“Moreover, [prosecutor] Luis Moreno-Ocampo, who is known for his cleverness and his unbiased [approach and respect for] justice and the law, couldn’t [possibly] find a weaker country than Sudan, with its Muslim majority, on which to practice his selective justice and exert his legendary power, which even heads of state [cannot evade].
“If a lawsuit were brought against former U.S. president George Bush – who has acknowledged starting a war in which over a million people were killed based on false evidence – would Ocampo dare to prosecute him? And what does Ocampo think of Israel’s recent attack on Gaza, and of Israel’s crimes…? Would Ocampo even dare to consider issuing an arrest warrant against Bush for what he did in Iraq, or against [Israeli Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert, [Israeli Foreign Minister Tsipi] Livni or [Israeli President Shimon] Peres for what they have done in Gaza, Palestine, Lebanon and in other Arab countries over dozens of years?
“The answer, of course, is no – because Ocampo knows that [if he went after them], he would not remain in his position even one more hour… Ocampo cannot [prosecute] the U.S. or Israel, but with Sudan he can do even more than that… in order to align his justice with the political orientation of the U.S. and the West, which seem to be intent on carving up Sudan.”Â
Editorials in Qatari and Egyptian Press Call For Deferring Bashir’s Trial
An editorial in the Egyptian government dailyÂ Al-AhramÂ called on the Sudanese government to cooperate with international efforts to suspend the procedures against Bashir, and at the same time to stop the fighting in Darfur and bring those responsible to justice in Sudan:
“The hard times that have befallen our sister-state Sudan oblige us to [act] prudently and reasonably, rather than be carried away by emotion…
“The Sudanese have the right to express their outrage and their reservations about the [ICC’s] decision, to stage demonstrations in support of Al-Bashir, and to voice their protest over the court’s [moves] and its interference in their affairs. But it is unwise [for the Sudanese authorities] to attack the international bodies and even expel some of them from the state, since the humanitarian [activity of these organizations] is far more important than all the talk about their flaws…
“At this critical juncture, the Sudanese government must create an atmosphere conducive to the success of the Egyptian, Arab and African diplomatic efforts to prevent the implementation of the arrest warrant. [This is what it must do,] instead of continuing its attacks on the ICC, on its prosecutor-general and on the West in general, since these attacks will not change a thing.
“Our diplomatic effort must be accompanied by another bid to end the crisis in Darfur and to restore peace and stability to that region. This will only be achieved by means of a determined and principled decision to stop the hostilities there, return the refugees [to their homes] and start developing the region.
“Subsequently, it is vital that the Sudanese judicial system promptly bring to justice those involved in the Darfur massacres. This, in order to demonstrate that Sudan does not tolerate human rights violations in its territory, and punishes those who are responsible for such acts.Â
A similar argument was made in the Qatari dailyÂ Al-Raya: “The Arab states must show solidarity with Sudan, and express a unified and clear position, in the form of a joint decision to support Sudan’s rejection of the ICC [moves]… The Arab efforts should not be limited to condemning [the ICC]. [The Arabs must] insist on deferring the [legal] procedures [against Bashir] for a year under Article 16 of the Rome Statute, even if an emergency Security Council session must be convened in order to approve this decision.
“There is no doubt that the Sudanese government needs to exercise much restraint in order to avoid playing into the hands of those who lie in wait for it. Khartoum must fulfill its international obligations, especially with regards to the presence of the U.N.’s military and diplomatic delegations and of [other] foreign delegations operating in the country. Any irresponsible move [such as] expelling or harming [one of these] delegations will lead to dire consequences and developments that will harm Sudan on the regional and international [levels], presenting it as a rogue country and as a sponsor of terrorism.
“The Sudanese government must bring serious legal measures against [the perpetrators of] the crimes in Darfur. This can only be done by employing the local judicial system, so that none [of the criminals] go unpunished. [The government] must also accelerate the [intra-Sudanese] peace negotiations and clear the political air by including all the political parties in [the efforts] to resolve the Darfur crisis.”Â
Al-AhramÂ Editor: The Lawsuit is a Death Blow to the Arab-African Regimes
Al-AhramÂ editor Osama Saraya wrote: “We all believe in justice and [agree] that one who committed a crime must be punished. Nevertheless, the [ICC] decision is a dangerous precedent, because this is the first time that an arrest warrant is issued against a presiding president of a sovereign country like Sudan, and such dangerous accusations are made against him…
“It would be no exaggeration to say that the prosecutor-general in the Darfur [case] has preceded the ICC [in judging Al-Bashir], and has virtually convicted him in the eyes of the international public opinion. By choosing to [conduct the entire affair] before the eyes of the media, he is aiming to exacerbate the fighting and the conflicts in Darfur, and to enable the rebels and [various] organizations to continue the struggle instead of sitting down at the negotiation table…
“I say this even though I do not approve of Al-Bashir’s policy or [even find it] acceptable. In fact, I object to his policy and hold him responsible for what is happening in Sudan, and especially in Darfur. As president, the responsibility is his, and he cannot be absolved of political responsibility [for the situation]. He must put an end to this war…
“Therefore, I call upon the Arab and African legal [experts], who value the stability of their country and continent, to file a lawsuit against Mr. Ocampo… The indictment against him should include [an acknowledgement] that an African or Arab president cannot be compared to a European or American one, because the Western regimes are able to defend themselves when an indictment is issued against their president or against one of their [army] commanders. But in the African world, the president is inextricably linked to [the country’s] national pride and to its sovereignty, freedom and independence. It’s a matter of different historical development, as the ICC prosecutor-general undoubtedly knows.
“That is why the ICC has been accused of taking an unjust decision aimed at dealing a death blow to the Arab-African regimes, which are striving for stability. Instead of helping Sudan [resolve] the Darfur crisis, it has been trying to exacerbate the problems and intensify the conflicts.Â
Al-Arabiya Director: Al-Bashir Must Stand Trial
‘Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, director-general of Al-Arabiya TV and former editor ofÂ Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, wrote: “This is neither the first nor the last time that [an international court] is subpoenaing a leader. [Before Al-Bashir,] there were the former dictator of Yugoslavia, [Slobodan] Milosevic… and the former president of Liberia, Charles Taylor, who is now in prison.
“The Sudanese regime must acknowledge that it has made a grave error and has failed to appreciate how the international systems [work], for otherwise it would have never put itself in this tight position. For three years, there has been every indication that [Al-Bashir] would be prosecuted, yet he has refused to put an end to the horrible massacres. [Even now, the Sudanese regime] still exhibits ignorance in regional and international politics, and we therefore expect to see it drown itself by committing further errors.
“Anyone who has seen the Iranians rushing to Khartoum knows that [the guy] in the Sudanese capital [i.e. Al-Bashir] is a drowning man desperately clutching at straws. [For] what can the Iranians do for the [Sudanese] regime? In the past, [this regime] formed an alliance with them, and they caused it to ruin its relations with the Arabs and with the Sudanese people [themselves].
“The truth is that Al-Bashir has very few options left, which only he himself can realize. He must fight the [ICC] charges by appearing before the court, not by running away from it… The court may even acquit him, if he devotes his time from now on to preparing his defense, instead of hosting the Iranians and [various] terrorist organizations, in hope of using them to scare the world.”Â
Al-GumhouriyyaÂ Editor: The Arabs Must Acknowledge Their Partial Responsibility for theÂ DarfurÂ Crisis
The editor of the Egyptian government dailyÂ Al-Gumhouriyya, MP Muhammad ‘Ali Ibrahim, wrote in his daily column: “The Arab peoples have become accustomed to assessing [all] their affairs emotionally [rather than cerebrally]. They turn to conspiracy theories, and even if conspiracies do exist sometimes, we cannot use [these theories] as the only [possible explanation for every phenomenon]. Conspiracy theories have one fundamental flaw – namely, that they blind us to our own faults, justify this [blindness], and absolve us of all blame…
“We Arabs are partly responsible [for the situation in Darfur]. The entire international community, including us Arabs, has done nothing in the recent years to end Khartoum’s involvement in the Darfur massacres. In addition, the wealthy Arab states, and especially the Gulf states, have not extended aid to the residents of Darfur, except to a very limited extent, which does not compare to the scope of the aid provided by the international community…”Â
Arab Columnist: The Arabs Should Have Put Bashir on Trial
Arab columnist Shaker Al-Nabulsi wrote on the liberal websiteÂ www.elaph.com: “Omar Al-Bashir, for whom several Arab leaders are shedding tears… is a foolish executioner, who did not heed the warnings of either international law or international public opinion, which regards the Darfur massacre as the greatest humanitarian catastrophe since the Nazi era.
“It is Bashir who has transformed the modest, good, mild, unassuming, and honorable Sudanese [citizen] into a delinquent, a savage, and a hideous criminal, who burns, plunders, murders and rapes Darfur women, indiscriminately, remorselessly, and without fear [of retribution]… What is [simultaneously] comical and tragic is that those leaders who are so eager to [help] Bashir evade justice are the ones who [themselves] represent tyrannical and criminal governments, just like that of Bashir. They [simply] fear meeting the same wretched fate…
“Were the Arab world endowed with a conscience and with the values of honor, virtue, justice, love and peace, it would have tried Bashir for the Darfur crimes in an Arab High Court of Justice, about which I have been dreaming for years – instead of [allowing] this glaring scandal and international ignominy [to continue]. The Arabs would have also tried [those responsible] for the Lockerbie crime, [and for the atrocities committed] in Syrian and Iraqi prisons, and in all Arab prisons, where many oppositionists and dissidents [are incarcerated]. If that were the case, we would not have needed Ocampo.
“[However,] since the Arab world lacks justice and righteous people, truth and its champions, courage and the courageous, and [instead] is replete with cowards and distorters of the truth – legitimate international tribunals and their judges have the right to take action and to end the killings and disasters brought upon individuals and humanity [as a whole]…”Â
Editorial in Iraqi Daily: “This Is anÂ OpportunityÂ to Build Just Arab Societies”
An editorial in the Iraqi dailyÂ Al-MadaÂ stated: “…Those who objected [to the arrest warrant issued against Bashir] claimed that this decision constitutes interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state. This argument, however, is ugly and damaging [in that] it implies that tyrants have a national right to continue their tyranny and their arbitrary [rule]… The Sudanese president will keep on evading [the ICC] and, without doubt, will force his citizens to condemn its decision and its iniquitous interference in his running of the country, supported all the while by a clamorous, recruited and misleading Arab media campaign. It can be safely assumed that there will be no about-face by Bashir, to run [his country] in a way that will quell the storm.
“[If the Arab media] continues to defend Bashir with blind [loyalty] and to revile and abuse the ICC, its prosecutor and the U.N., the Arab regimes will, as always, miss the opportunity to avail themselves of the international institutions in order to defend themselves against oppression and protect the just rights [of the Arab citizens]. The Arab regimes will also miss the opportunity to genuinely and honestly contemplate reform and the building of just and humane societies, where the citizens will be able to defend their leaders…Â
Editor of a Liberal Website: This Is a Historic Day
Editor of the liberal websiteÂ www.aafaq.orgÂ ‘Omran Salman wrote: “Upon my word, this is one of the blessed days when Allah empowered Sudan and its residents and humiliated ‘Omar Al-Bashir and his gang. On this day, the ICC defended millions of victims and those tortured in Darfur and the rest of Sudan, and defeated the evil and corrupt clique in Khartoum.
“As of today, ‘Omar Al-Bashir has become wanted [by the law]… like any [ordinary] criminal. As of today, a new [chapter of] history is being written, not only in Sudan but in the entire Arab and African region. Whether Al-Bashir leaves Sudan or remains there, he will neither escape justice nor evade the arrest warrant issued against him. I am confident that, in the end, it is the Sudanese who will arrest him and deliver him to the ICC in the Hague.
“Bashir can call up the members of his government and all those whom he misled by his street propaganda, and he can rant all he wants about the Western colonialism and conspiracies against him and his regime. However, I would not discount the possibility that, after a while, he will be abandoned by his allies and closest associates, as happened to the former Yugoslavian president [Slobodan] Milosevic and [the former Bosnian Serb wartime leader] Radovan Karadzic.Â Â
As part of the reactions to the arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, the Sudanese government has frozen the assets of 13 foreign aid organizations recently expelled from the country, and of three local aid organizations.
The Sudanese parliament yesterday approved a proposal to reject the extradition of any Sudanese citizen to the International Criminal Court.
A bill on the matter is to be discussed next month.
Source:Â Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London, March 13, 2009