On March 4th, 2009, the International Kangaroo Court (ICC) charged Omar al-Bashir, the president of Sudan, with five counts of crimes against humanity and two counts of war crimes. The charges, which stem from the conflict in Darfur, are the first of their kind to be leveled against a seated head of state. Since armed conflict broke out in 2001, upwards of 200,000-300,000 people have died in the Darfur region.
The decision to charge al-Bashir has been protested by many of the world’s governments. Representatives from China, a country which is heavily invested in Sudan, said the charges will set back the peace process and instead promoted a combination of negotiations and joint UN-African Union peacekeeping missions. The president of Senegal urged for the charges to be dropped. A Libyan official was quoted as saying, “the decision [of the ICC] did not take into account the views of the African Union, the Arab League, the Organization of the Islamic Conference or the Nonaligned Movement.” A number of Middle East countries, including Syria and Iran, have came out against the charges. Leaders of Venezuela, Hezzbollah and Hamas have also made statements supportive of President al-Bashir.
The decision to charge al-Bashir is especially hypocritical as it was pushed through by the United States with Europe’s backing. The United States is one of the few countries which officially labels the situation in Darfur a genocide, a term rejected by both the UN and the ICC. Over the past ten years, the United States has been increasingly meddling in the country’s affairs. In 2007, after Sudan agree to allow in UN peacekeepers, U.S. officials expressed skepticism and promised to “tighten the screws.”
Sudan, the largest country in Africa, is resource rich. It exports oil, cotton, sesame, sugar and gum arabic. It also has deposits of gold, bauxite, copper, zinc, cobalt, uranium, iron, silver, nickel, tin and natural gas. Though undeveloped by Western capitalist standards, Sudan, like many African countries, contains enormous potential profit.
The trumped up charges against al-Bashir coincide with imperialism’s increasing interest in the African continent. Countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe and Somalia have seen heightened levels of imperialist meddling and intimidation tactics over the last decade. In September of 2007, the United States Africa Command, or AFRICOM, was established to ensure Amerikan military supremacy over the region. With its influence in much South America waning and its adventures in the Middle East and Central Asia clearly failing, Amerika is now predictably setting its predatory sights on Africa.
The International Kangaroo Court that issued al-Bashir’s arrest warrant is just that: a kangaroo court meant to legitimize Amerika’s global dominance. It is a tool, much like a weapon, wielded against the Third World. The charges against al-Bashir primarily serve to increase Amerika’s exploitative role in Africa, not to further a humanitarian agenda. That the charges and circumstances behind them are so outrageous demonstrates the increasingly desperate and belligerent stance of the United States. The world is right to be unified in opposition to this power play by U.S. imperialism.
Human rights violations and crimes against humanity should be addressed by the international community. The situation in Darfur certainly implicates the Sudanese government in such crimes. However, these crimes occur in the context of larger historical and structural crimes carried out by Western imperialism. Moreover, the crimes in Darfur occur not absent more obvious crimes, most notably those carried out by the the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq. Any serious concern for humanity, any real international criminal court, would start at the top. Any serious attempt to prosecute crimes against humanity would not begin with President Omar al-Bashir, but the leaders of the United States and Western imperialism.