By Simone Pereira
Summer 2008 proved to be an effective and productive term for the ICC. After thirteen years on the run, former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic was arrested by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in Belgrade on July 18, 2008. A few days earlier, ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo issued an indictment to Sudan’s President Omar Al-Bashir on war crime charges for the latter’s role in the country’s civil war. Although both cases can arguably be charged as taking too long in the making, it is safe to say that such results go a long way to re-affirming the reasons why a court like the ICC is necessary in today’s world.
Karadzic faces fifteen charges against him, including several counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Along with Ratko Mladic, it is believed that Karadzic orchestrated and planned the persistent attacks against individuals of different national, political and religious bases other than the Serbs. This culminated in the murder of over 8000 people during his four years in office. After the arrest and trial of Slobodan Milosevic, that of Karadzic is the second major arrest of political leaders associated with the breakup of the Former Yugoslav Republic.
It is believed that Karadzic lived for many years within Belgrade itself before finally being captured. His disguise – a full and heavy beard, long hair and some loss of weight – was convincing enough to have fooled authorities during their previous encounters. It is not until the political changeover in government to the more pro-West leadership under Boris Tadic that significant breakthroughs in the case have been achieved. The case now stands before the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia.
In the mean time, chief prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo has issued an indictment for Omar Al-Bashir’s arrest. Reasons for doing so include Al-Bashir’s apparent attempt to brutally marginalize the three minority groups in Sudan. If the Court’s pre-trial judges approve the indictment, Al-Bashir will be the first sitting president to be charged with crimes against humanity. Not only is this a bold move on the part of the court, but it is also a powerful deterrent to potential offenders against committing such heinous acts.
The indictment against Al-Bashir comes at a time when the ICC’s raison-d’être comes into question. Clearly an action of this nature against an imposing dictator is noticeable and brings to light the plight of the Sudanese people. To date, Al-Bashir’s regime has been responsible for the murders of over 300,000 people, and it is about time they stood accountable for their actions. An intransigent leader like Al-Bashir cannot be allowed to continue in power while his regime stops at nothing to get their way. Because of the limits of a nation’s sovereignty, foreign states are unable to indict or prosecute leaders of different nations. This is why the ICC, with its largely universal jurisdiction can take charge and adopt those cases which other nations are unable to pick up on. The upcoming months will be key in determining the pace and direction that the court will adopt with respect to both these high-profile cases. With ten years under its belt, the Court now seems to have adopted a more proactive approach against offenders.