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After Indictment, Sudan Holds Its Breath

In July 2008, chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo asked the International Criminal Court to indict the president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, for abuses committed against the people of the Darfur region. The move set off a firestorm of controversy about whether it would obstruct efforts to bring peace to Darfur. "I cannot adjust to political considerations.  Politicians have to adjust to the law," Moreno-Ocampo responded.  After months of debate, the court followed through and on March 4, 2009, indicted Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Human rights activists heralded the move as a victory for the cause of international justice, but its ramifications for Sudan and its people will take months, if not years, to unfold.

The ICC's warrant for Bashir is the most dramatic development in the global move toward increased transnational justice since the end of the Cold War. The United Nations created several ad-hoc tribunals following the Rwandan genocide and the mass atrocities in the Balkans in the early 1990s. In 1998, the arrest of Chilean leader Augusto Pinochet by British authorities created a precedent for the notion of universal jurisdiction in the view of some legal scholars. The International Criminal Court came into being in 2002 amid widespread feeling among human rights groups that a permanent body was necessary to address issues of genocide and mass atrocity. Yet international support for the court is still tenuous. The United States epitomizes the mixed global reactions to the ICC--it has not signed the court's treaty, but it supports the court's work in Sudan. As of March 2009, 108 countries had ratified the court's treaty.

Within Sudan, the ICC indictment has provoked a range of responses (LAT). Among the hundreds...

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