Friday, 1 August 2008

Will the Security Council Block the Bashir Prosecution? Recent Developments

Yesterday, the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution extending the mandate of the peacekeeping mission in Darfur. The vote was 14 in favour with one abstention, the United States. The text of the resolution and the procès-verbal of the meeting are not yet up on the United Nations website, but they should be available later today. The heart of the controversy was the inclusion of language within the resolution that indicated the Security Council was open to suspending the prosecution of President Bashir by the International Criminal Court.
China, in comments following the vote, strongly supported such a suspension. Russia and South Africa were also reportedly in favour of this. The United States, on the other hand, was unhappy with the language because of its implication that Bashir might escape prosecution. Article 16 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court authorises the Security Council to suspend prosecutions for one year. It has been used twice before, in 2002 and 2003, following bullying by the United States, which threatened to veto all United Nations peace support missions if the resolution based upon article 16 was not adopted. Now, it seems, the United States does the opposite, threatening its veto if the article is invoked. What an irony! The United States is fighting for the integrity of the International Criminal Court! It was praised for its stance (this time) by Human Rights Watch.

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