The aftermath of al-Bashir's visit to South Africa

Like Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir ignores South African court order and returns home
Monday, June 22, 2015 - 11:44

By Niklas Jakobsson

One week after people in the world of international justice were at the edge of their seats, we’re starting to see the aftermath of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir's narrow escape from justice in South Africa. The event encapsulated many of the International Criminal Court’s current struggles, from state cooperation to the Court’s inability to arrest suspects. I spent most of my week perusing opinion pieces and social media posts. I decided to divide the opinions into three categories:

Blame the ICC
The Ottawa Citizen published an opinion piece by Mohammed Adam which laid the blame squarely on the ICC – highlighting the Court’s inability to prosecute anyone who is not African. 

“If there is any outrage, it should be directed at an ICC that was sworn to the pursuit of universal justice at birth, but has since pursued selective justice.”

The ICC operates in a flawed reality
An opinion piece in The Guardian gave a nuanced and sober evaluation of what went wrong in the al-Bashir-South Africa debacle. While the ICC’s argued African bias is brought up, the author’s main point boils down to this: the Court’s limitations are not of its own doing. Instead it’s a court which has to play the hand it’s been dealt. And trust me, it’s a really poor hand.

“It is not the fault of the ICC that it exists in an imperfect world where the powerful can opt in and out of human rights. Ideally, Mr. Bashir would be standing in the dock today with all other heads of state that have perpetrated illegal wars, but until that happens, the court has no mandate, and the Sudanese people will continue to suffer the double whammy of international sanctions against them for having a government they have had no say in choosing, and a president that they cannot enlist outsiders to eject because the willpower to arrest him cannot be reasonably summoned in the face of exceptionalism.”

One small step for man, a giant leap for International Justice
Regular contributor to Justice Hub, Mark Kersten, published an interesting piece on the Monkey Cage blog a few hours after the al-Bashir saga unraveled before the eyes of the world. While he looked critically at the al-Bashir case, he emerged as one of the most optimistic commentators throughout the week.

“Even the nature of Bashir’s visit suggests that the ICC isn’t an impotent institution… When he finally did depart in violation of the order against leaving the country, Bashir became the only African leader who had to flee South Africa rather than return back home.”

A closing note
Throughout the week I kept asking why? Why did South Africa decide to let Omar al-Bashir leave the country? Twitter had a few answers, some more credible than others:

Regardless of the actions of the South African government, court or the ICC, it is clear that all three will be held accountable in the eyes of the public. What that will lead to no one knows. All we know is that Omar al-Bashir will be ruling Sudan for an indefinite period.

So…

  • What implications will the al-Bashir saga have on the ICC?
  • Which category do you find yourself in?
  • Why do you think South Africa let al-Bashir leave?

Dr. Meddy is a cartoonist who works for Cartoon Movement. 

The Weekly Hubble features the most popular or controversial international justice story of the past week and reactions on social media to the news.

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