International Indictments for crimes of mass murder in Darfur

Term Paper, 2012

13 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of Content

1. Introduction
1.1 The Conflict
1.2 The Controversy over Genocide
1.3 Overview of International Response

2. Why International Justice in Darfur Is Justified and How it Should Be Pursued
2.1 International Justice is Mandatory and a Moral Obligation
2.2 Types of International Punishment and Who Should Carry it Out
2.3 An Independent Judicial Proceeding
2.4 Domestic and International Effects of the Indictments
2.5 Capability of Punishment and Criteria for Success

3. Conclusion

4. Bibliography

“Until now, when powerful men committed crimes against humanity, they knew that so long as they remained powerful, no earthly court could judge them.” (Annan, Kofi, 07.28.1998)

1. Introduction

These words of Kofi Annan, at that time secretary-general of the United Nations, were spoken shortly after the adoption of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). They reflect the international effort to investigate and prosecute cruel crimes against humanity, war crimes, the crime of aggression and genocide. The intent of this paper is to present a stance on the question whether international indictments for crimes of mass murder in Darfur are appropriate and justified. It will be argued, that the international community has to punish perpetrators of mass violence under certain conditions, because of the following crucial points: (2.1) The international community has the moral and legal obligation to do so, (2.3) international justice should be pursued independently of regards to the peace process, (2.4) it may deter others and possibly produce domestic pressures and changes. Moreover, to be able to develop guidelines and policy recommendations the paper will also consider (2.2) the types of international punishment and who carries them out, as well as (2.5) examine the real capability of punishment and criteria of success. Before doing so, it is inevitable to (1.1) introduce the conflict, (1.2) the genocide debate and (1.3) the international response to the killings, because the stance on the use of international justice in Darfur is ultimately shaped by the interpretation of these issues.

1.1 The Conflict

The conflict on Darfur is a complex one because it looks at a first glance like racial motivated killings between different ethnicities, Arab and non-Arab (African) tribes, who have a historically complicated relationship, as Falligant shows (cf. Falligant 2010: 735f.). Naturally, the “Africans” and “Arabs” in Darfur aren’t that different and Sudanese tend to see themselves affiliated to a tribe and not to a race. The hostilities are partly born out of negative effects of colonial rule in Sudan and were further instrumentalized by the Sudanese government. But it is more than that. Sudan witnesses a center-peripheral conflict over power, territory, resources and cultural self-determination (cf. Miller 2007: 113-116, 121-123). The Sudanese government neglected the Darfur region over decades, which lead two rebel groups to fight against the marginalization (cf. Tanagho 2008-2009: 376-380). President Omar al-Bashir responded with brutal counterinsurgency and incited and supported the “Janjaweed”, horsemen of Arab tribes, in killings of the civilian population of Darfur (cf. Miller 2007: 112, Hastrup 2008: 200ff.). Often, the Sudanese army and the Janjaweed worked hand in hand to quell the uprising in Darfur. The peak of the killings were in 2003/2004, but till today the conflict is still alive and caused in total 300.000 to 400.000 deaths according to the UN Under-Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs and produced 2.5 million internally displaced persons (cf. Waal&Stanton 2009: 334). The response of the international community about the killings sparked a heated discussion about the assessment if the killings in Darfur are to be seen as genocide.

1.2 The Controversy over Genocide

Evidence if a mass killing is genocide or not has crucial implications for the legal and international response to it. Under the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, member states approve that genocide “is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and to punish” (United Nations 1948: Art.1). The assessments of scholars and institutions are rather ambiguous: Scholars like Reeves, Stanton, Tanagho, Totten or the Journalist Kristof argue that genocide happened in Darfur and that there is evidence that the government had the intent to actively support the Janjaweed in their genocidal killings. They base their claims on the fact that al-Bashir is in full control of the power and the hierarchy, making him responsible for the killings (cf. Reeves 2006: 6ff., Tanagho 2008-2009: 389f., Totten 2008: 1084, Kristof 2006, Waal&Stanton 2009: 334). The supporters of the genocide claim therefore see it as given, that al-Bashir had the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such” (United Nations 1948: Art. 2). But there are also well-respected scholars and institutions who refrain from calling the killings in Darfur “genocide”. Human Rights Watch called it “ethnic cleansing” like Samantha Power (Power 2004), because they couldn’t see the intent to call it genocide. De Waal says that the “genocide charges are breathtakingly ambitious” (Waal&Stanton 2009: 330), Mamdani sees “no attempt to eliminate a people here” (Mamdani 2009) and Dr. Jean-Hervé Bradol, the President of Doctors without Borders, stated that the situation is just called genocide because of political will (cf. Bradol 2004). In the end, the narrow or broad interpretation of the wording of the Genocide Convention seems to determine if the killings are to be considered as genocide or not (cf. Straus 2005: 132). Although I don’t have any practical experience nor the academic capacity to decide the controversy, I find the arguments for calling it genocide more persuading as I sympathize with a broad interpretation of the genocide convention in terms of the phrasing of “intent to destroy, in whole or in part”.

That’s why for the purpose of this paper the genocide claim for the killings in Darfur will be chosen, but the dissenting views need to be heard and critically reconsidered.

1.3 Overview of International Response

First journalists like Nicholas D. Kristof and later the US Secretary Collin Powell (Powell 2004) and the US Government called the killings in Darfur genocide. The USA called on the UN Security Council to act, who authorized an investigation by the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur. The Commission found 2005 evidence for mass murder but not genocide (cf. United Nations 2005) and the UN Security Council referred the case to the ICC. The Prosecutor of the ICC had opened investigations and filed indictments against members of the Sudanese government and Janjaweed as well accused Omar al-Bashir of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Al-Bashir rejected the charges and said that they are "not worth the ink they are written in" (IRIN 2009).

2. Why International Justice in Darfur Is Justified and How it Should Be Pursued

Darfur is quite a unique case for the ICC as the conflict is still ongoing (cf. Totten 2008: 1072), because it normally works retrospectively after a conflict was settled. Cooper analyzes rightly that this new setting is testing the boundaries between law and politics (cf. Cooper 2009: 91), therefore this tension will be visible in the following discussion. However, as the conflict is unlikely to be solved soon, it is reasonable to continue the judicial proceedings. The whole debate about international justice in Darfur is probably best represented in the exchange of views of Alex de Waal and Gregory H. Stanton (Waal&Stanton 2009), whereby this paper can just offer a small insight.

2.1 International Justice is Mandatory and a Moral Obligation

A question to begin the study with is, whether international justice should be based on values or interests. Interests can be easily exploited by the political sphere and strategic considerations. Values instead, stand beyond interests and are the results of the international history and experience with genocide. After the famous “Never again!” slogan, it became a moral obligation to bring the perpetrators of mass killings to justice, there is no opt-out of it. The international community inherited this phrase and praises its high moral values. Adding to that, an overwhelming number of the United Nations Members signed the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which binds them to punish genocide. De Waal and Flint provide the counterargument and are worried that indictments by international justice in Darfur would worsen the situation and harm the population, so for example proven by al-Bashir who expelled aid groups after the indictment of the ICC (cf. Waal&Flint 2009: 35f.). But it seemed like the Sudanese government prepared for the expelling for a long time, so it would have happened anyway and it just waited for a chance to rule it out (cf. Addario 2009).


Excerpt out of 13 pages


International Indictments for crimes of mass murder in Darfur
Indiana University  (Department of Political Science)
Politics of Genocide
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
8053 KB
Darfur, Genocide, Genozid, Völkermord, ICC, International Criminal Court, al-Bashir
Quote paper
Christopher King (Author), 2012, International Indictments for crimes of mass murder in Darfur, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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