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September 24, 2008

Excellent piece by Richard Holbrooke.A must read for those who think the arrest of Al-Bashir would be a mistake or should be delayed.

Financial Times
The arrest of Sudan’s Bashir should proceed
By Richard Holbrooke
Published: September 21 2008 17:57 |
The request from the International Criminal Court prosecutor for an arrest warrant for Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s president, caused much hand-wringing by diplomats and others who say the search for justice will derail peace negotiations or endanger humanitarian relief workers. Fearing that the crisis in Darfur will worsen if the prosecutor is allowed to proceed, they have launched an ill-considered campaign at the United Nations Security Council to delay the court’s proceedings, perhaps for a year. The very nations that created the ICC appear to be afraid to let it do its work. A vote for deferral might come as early as next month.
For me, this is familiar terrain. When Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb leaders, were indicted by the Yugoslav tribunal in July 1995 for orchestrating atrocities in Bosnia, the media and many diplomats lamented that we would be unable to negotiate peace for Bosnia. Less than five months later, an agreement was reached in Dayton to end the war.
What had seemed an insurmountable obstacle turned out to be an unexpected opportunity. Before the indictments, we had already decided to marginalise Gen Mladic and Mr Karadzic and force Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian president, to take full responsibility for the war. Our negotiating team met them only once – in a hunting villa just outside Belgrade in September 1995 – but only with a prior understanding that Mr Milosevic would be responsible for their conduct, and only to lift the three-year siege of Sarajevo, which we accomplished that night. Later, when Mr Milosevic insisted that to achieve peace the two men had to participate in negotiations, I offered to arrest them personally if they set foot in the US.
Their removal from negotiations helped greatly in our success even though Mr Karadzic, forced by Mr Milosevic to sign the Dayton agreement, must have known it would end his political career. After he stepped down he invented a fable that I – and later Madeleine Albright – made deals with him that Nato would not pursue him. This wholly fabricated story, coming from a war criminal who also said the Muslims bombed their own marketplace in Sarajevo to lure Nato into war, is grotesque.
The key point is that the pariah status created by the indictment contributed to resolving the conflict and creating a more stable situation in Bosnia. The tragedy was not that these evil men were indicted; it was that it took almost 13 years to arrest Mr Karadzic and that Gen Mladic is still at large.
The US and the European Union confront a similar issue with Darfur. In 2005, the Security Council determined that offering impunity was a threat to peace. It referred the situation to the ICC prosecutor, who announced that the evidence pointed to the top of Sudan’s government. Suddenly, some Council members backed away from their earlier stance. In a routine resolution to extend the mandate of the Darfur peacekeeping mission, they added a statement of “concern” about the prosecutor’s request and promised to raise the issue again.
The US abstained, neither wishing to veto the mission nor wanting to support anything leading to a delay in the prosecution of Mr Bashir. China, Russia and others argued that an arrest warrant against Mr Bashir would frustrate peace prospects and jeopardise humanitarian workers. In October, these countries plan to ask the Security Council to defer the ICC’s investigations for a renewable 12-month period.
Those advocating this step argue that it would give negotiators leverage to produce results in Darfur. Yet they have never produced evidence for this, nor defined what the benchmark for success would be at the end of the 12 months. Mr Bashir is simply playing for time, offering nothing. Mr Milosevic did the same. Give Mr Bashir a year and he will take it – and ask for more.
The US and the EU must resist efforts to suspend ICC prosecutions. Peace negotiations have been stalled for nearly a year for reasons unrelated to a possible warrant against Mr Bashir. Suspension may seem a safer course to follow in the short run, but it will embolden him and other future suspected war criminals.
Bringing perpetrators of international crimes to justice is undeniably difficult when trying simultaneously to end a conflict, but it is the right choice. War criminals should know that they can run but – as the evil Mr Karadzic ultimately learnt – sooner or later they will be brought to justice.
The writer is former special envoy for the Balkans, former US ambassador at the United Nations and is a supporter of Barack Obama

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