Category Archives: International Criminal Court

Do war crimes pay?

According to the Washington Post, the Obama administration will support a U.N. commission of inquiry into the Burmese junta’s war crimes. The administration hopes that the probe would be a way to discredit Than Shwe and encourage younger officers to oust him (for more on Than Shwe, check out Benedict Rogers’ upcoming biography).
Will it work? Well, let’s recall our old “friend,” Omar-al Bashir. A while ago, I wrote about how the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant for President Bashir might expose the impotence of the international criminal system. I recall people who knew Sudan well making the same arguments about Sudan’s ruling party that Burma activists are now making about the tatmadaw – namely, that the elites care too much about their survival to let the head honcho drag them down. However, (as the comic from Pazambuka News below shows), Bashir remains at large and, if anything, Sudan seems to have fallen from the international radar screen.

Oddly enough, so far I haven’t seen anybody mention Bashir in the context of the proposed Burma commission of inquiry. In fact, it’s not clear what form the commission of inquiry would take (it seems separate and distinct from the ICC, which in itself is an odd choice). However, the parallels are striking and suggest that a commission of inquiry without other forms of political pressure will do little to resolve Burma’s political impasse. If anything, it might worry younger officers, who probably also have dirtied their hands while rising through the ranks…

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Filed under Burma, International Criminal Court, Myanmar

Sudan to ICC: Who cares?

I just came across a very interesting (and fairly aggressive) interview with Sudanese President
Omar al-Bashir, the man who had been indicted by the International Criminal Court. Here is one revealing quote:

Interviewer: You seem to show little concern for your safety here, despite the persistent rumors that you are threatened by a special commando that could execute the arrest warrant and take you to The Hague.

Bashir: I feel completely safe in my country. On the contrary, the International Criminal Court has even done me a service, one that I could never have dreamed of. My popularity at home has unexpectedly shot up as a result of this arrest warrant.

Obviously, this isn’t directly related to Southeast Asia. However, I think this story should serve as a cautionary tale to Burmese activists who are petitioning to send Myanmar’s generals to the ICC. Dragging powerful leaders before an international tribunal is nearly impossible without external military intervention or the cooperation of political elites.

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Filed under International Criminal Court, Sudan