Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Justice is big issue in a place like Darfur - basically, everyone agrees there is not enough of it. Not surprisingly, this means people are not particularly worried about being prosecuted when they continue to harass, abuse, rape or kill someone.

My Sudanese colleagues, especially those with a legal background, regularly try to rope me into long, passionate debates about impunity, and ask me what I know about the progress of the International Criminal Court (the ICC, the organisation that has been tasked with investigating war crimes in Darfur).

I tell them about the updates that the ICC's chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, gives to the UN Security Council (such as the one he gave earlier this week), and also about reports like the ones by Human Rights Watch (which recently published a list of Sudanese officials who should be investigated for crimes against humanity in Darfur).

What always strikes me most about these conversations is not just the hope that people place in these international proceedings but more importantly the complete and utter distrust that they harbour towards their own government and its ability to bring any justice to Darfur.

It's not just that everyone instinctively mistrusts the government, which has made no secret of the fact that it hates the ICC (and which immediately organised protesters to march through the streets of Khartoum when the UN first asked the ICC to take on the case of Darfur in March 2005) - it also seems that none of my Sudanese friends has any illusions about the existence of an independent judiciary in Darfur.

"Those courts they have set up in Darfur, the ones that they want to use as a substitute for an ICC investigation, are pitiful," one of my friends scoffs when we read about new court rooms opening in Nyala and El Geneina in this week's papers. "They are just going to pick some random people from the streets and convict them for a handful of rapes and murders. They will do nothing for the victims of Darfur - they won't even scare any of the people who have committed the crimes. Anyway, many of them are now working for the police or the military themselves, there is no way these former Janjaweed will turn on their own brothers and arrest them."

The ICC - unlike the local courts - does seem to scare people on the ground. "A lot of the Janjaweed leaders have gotten passports for themselves or members of their families, there are plenty who have already fled to Chad and Lybia since March," colleagues in West Darfur claim.

"This is a real court, you can't buy yourself out of this one if they come after you. Even Bashir can't," one insists. Silently, I hope they are right.


At , Blogger FossilGuy said...

I hope they are right, too ... but the portents for justice don't seem too good. Justice normally needs some kick-ass power behind it. Sounds like the courts you're getting there are the framework for 'business as usual'.

At , Blogger msbahari said...

I agree with you, no fair trial will ever take place in Sudan by this goverment

At , Blogger Krissy said...

Unfortunatly, justice is slow and sticky. I hope that at least the prospect of justice will be some kind of protection.

At , Blogger Darfur Alert said...

Thanks for keeping us connected with every-day-life in Darfur...your blog is very helpful to us here in the US "I feel the heart beat of the streets" as one member of DArfur Alert Coalition comented when I shared with him your blog...

I wonder if it's possible to train of your Darfurian friends to start her/his own blog and share with us different realities...


Mohamed Elgadi
Philadelphia, PA (USA)

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