Sudan's Referendum: Omal al-Bashir and the ICC

Dennis Davis

The indictment of Sudan's President Omal al-Bashir for genocide and war crimes raises some important questions about international law. Dennis Davis, a judge at the High Court of Cape Town South Africa, and a visiting scholar at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies, notes the challenges of jurisdiction, as well as the double standards of the United States government.

There is another complicating issue.

The 2005 peace agreement, which ended two decades of civil war in Sudan, set January 9, 2011 as a date for a referendum in which people in southern Sudan will decide whether to secede from Sudan. With the vote approaching, tensions between north and south have increased. Many worry that if southern Sudan votes to become independent, civil war could erupt again. The north’s access to oil resources in the south is one particularly thorny problem.

In September 2010, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “…the situation North-South is a ticking time bomb of enormous consequence.” The United States and other countries have intensified diplomatic efforts that would allow the referendum to proceed, but prevent another catastrophic civil war.

The arrest warrant for President Bashir complicates these diplomatic efforts. Many in the international community oppose the warrant, fearful that it will further inflame tensions in the region. Some within the UN Security Council have supported a proposal to suspend the case against Bashir in return for his full cooperation in negotiating a peace agreement. Others have argued that suspending Bashir’s case would undermine the international criminal justice system.

Should the warrant be withdrawn? Why?

The Choices Program has produced a free lesson for teachers on the situation in Sudan. It is a supplement to its curriculum: Confronting Genocide: Never Again?

Dennis Davis worked with Choices to produce a series of videos on human rights and his work in South Africa, as well as a curriculum resource for high school teachers: Competing Visions of Human Rights: Questions for U.S. Policy.