As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Structural Racism Goes Global

The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Omar al-Bashir, the sitting President of Sudan, who is accused of directing and authorizing the genocide in Darfur. Under the concept of "universal jurisdiction," the ICC asserts the right to arrest and imprison those who played a role in crimes against humanity. Al-Bashir responded by tossing out all aid groups:

NAIROBI, March 4 -- Reacting swiftly to the International Criminal Court's decision to issue an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the government of Sudan on Wednesday expelled at least 10 foreign aid groups that provide food, water, medical care and other assistance to more than a million displaced people in the western Darfur region, according to U.N. officials and aid workers.

The groups include Oxfam, Doctors Without Borders, CARE International and others that collectively handle 60 percent of humanitarian assistance in Darfur, where the largest relief effort in the world has reversed a dangerous rise in the level of malnutrition and disease among people stranded in refugee camps. Some groups were given 24 hours to leave; others were told that the safety of their staffs could no longer be guaranteed.

"It's alarming," said a U.N. official in Khartoum, Sudan's capital, who was not authorized to speak publicly because of security concerns. "The humanitarian impact of this is massive."

This will only increase the pressure on the international community to put additional sanctions on the Sudan. Hopefully soon al-Bashir will find justice.

However, there is a data point coming out of this arrest warrant that is quite interesting.

Sudanese President Omar al Bashir is the 12th and highest profile suspect sought by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes — all of them Africans.

The seven-year-old court previously opened cases against a Sudanese official and a militia leader for crimes in the Darfur region, and against rebel leaders accused in long-running conflicts in Congo, Uganda and the Central African Republic.

The world's only standing war crimes court, based at The Hague, has been criticized for pursuing only African suspects to this point. Rwandan President Paul Kagame — whose central African nation isn't a party to the court — has described it as a new form of Western imperialism.

Not to hold harmless the actions of any of the Africans that the ICC is seeking to arrest - the continent often succumbs to dictatorships who commit all manner of crimes against their own people. But in the domestic arena, this is called "structural racism." Suspects are sought in the same communities, and the arresting officers have the same biases. The result is not overtly racist, but self-fulfilling. It's not like there aren't horrific crimes in Europe, or Asia, or around the world. The ICC arrest warrant is good news for those who seek justice in Darfur, but they ought to take a critical look at themselves.

...I don't want to minimize the crimes of al-Bashir, by the way. Here's a chilling description from a Sudanese soldier about how he was taught to kill and rape. It's sickening.

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