The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued a warrant for the arrest of Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir, on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity -- the court's first against a sitting head of state. The court's decision grimly spelled out the suffering of the people of Sudan's western region of Darfur: a history full of murder, extermination, torture, rape, pillage, the forcible transfer of people and deliberate attacks on civilians.
According to the United Nations, some 300,000 have died in Darfur since the conflict erupted in 2003 and more than two million have been displaced -- figures strongly rejected by Khartoum.
Al-Bashir, however, remains defiant.
"The true criminals are the leaders of the United States and Europe," he told some 10,000 protesters who crammed themselves into central Khartoum in support of their president.
While the U.S. and several western countries have hailed the court's decision, most Arab countries and several African nations called it "regrettable" and warned that al-Bashir's arrest could damage peace negotiations. Meanwhile, editorials in the Arab press have expressed strong feelings that the ICC employs a double standard in focusing on Africa while avoiding issues involving the Middle East and powerful members of the U.N. Security Council.
A commentator on Al Jazeera demanded that the precedent be extended to former U.S. President George W. Bush, "who authorized torture in Iraq's Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, thereby giving his approval of American crimes against humanity."
An Al Arabiya television report showed Washington's ally Israel as a potential candidate for prosecution, in view of the fact that it recently used banned weapons on civilians in Gaza.
The strongest attacks against the ICC's decision came on Hezbollah's Al Manar television, where a Lebanese member of the parliament wondered "about the blindness of justice and its absence from the prosecution of war criminals from U.S. officials and the Israelis, who filled the graves of Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Pakistan with hundreds of thousands of dead and destroyed infrastructure, and milestones of human civilization."
Could the ICC's decision set a precedent?
According to David Crane, an international law professor at Syracuse University, the principle of law used to issue an arrest warrant for Omar al-Bashir could extend to former U.S. President Bush over claims officials from his Administration may have engaged in torture by using coercive interrogation techniques on terror suspects. Crane is a former prosecutor of the Sierra Leone tribunal that indicted Liberian President Charles Taylor and put him on trial in The Hague.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority has asked the ICC to accept a complaint against Israel. After visiting Gaza, Britain's Secretary of State for International Development Douglas Alexander publicly stated that the war crimes charges should be investigated. During the war, nine Israeli human rights groups also raised the possibility that Israel had violated the laws of war and called for investigation.
Could Israeli leaders or former president George W. Bush be next?
Jamal Dajani produces the Mosaic Intelligence Report for Link TV
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