The decision by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to seek an arrest warrant for the president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, has made for a surprising and awkward joining of interests between the US, the PRC and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference.
OK, perhaps not so much a juncture of interests as an intersection of anxiety. The crossing is marked by the ICC. The Chinese don't like it at all. The US is uncomfortable with it. Many member states of the OIC are afraid of it.
The Geek has to admit he is not thrilled by this monument to international High Mindedness either. It strikes him as another example of an emotion driven, feel-good reaction to the atrocious behavior of a small number of zealots and True Believers in leadership positions.
The 1998 Rome Statute which created the ICC conferred an ambiguously broad jurisdiction on the court charging it with authority to try and convict individuals regardless of status for a portmanteau of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. As a result of the breadth of jurisdiction and the grave potential for abuse of a politically or ideologically based nature, the current administration withdrew the assent granted to the Rome Statute by President Clinton in 2000. As a result the Statute has never been presented to the Senate for ratification.
Despite the fact that the US is not a party to the court, the current administration is loath to take any action which might be seen as granting any legitimacy to the ICC. As a result the W. Bush Administration has been, at best, ambivalent in its response to the widely applauded decision of prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo to seek the arrest warrant. To get the skinny, go to the AP http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5jPO0qnku-2vJhJuBSUT5B8Qc61AAD91U5QC80.
The PRC, not unlike fellow Security Council member, Russia, opposes the ICC as it does all attempts by international entities to involve themselves in matters which are arguably of a purely internal nature. While Beijing officials aren't about to go on TV making so blunt a statement (particularly with the Olympic Games days away), there is not a shred of doubt regarding the government's position. The last thing China wants given its own record on suppressing internal political dissent is the potential for outside judgement.
(For the full Chinese position on the ICC arrest effort see the official news dispatch
The same is true with respect to Russia. (Can we say, "Chechnya?")
Thus there is a good to excellent chance that the UN Security Council will interdict the prosecutor's efforts to see Omar in the slam. Any Security Council blockage will be suitably camouflaged and concealed, lest the High Minded of the world take umbrage.
And, umbrage will be taken. If not by governments, then by high profile non-governmental organisations. One has already given notice in an interview with Voice of America. The Save Darfur Coalition Policy Director Amjad Atallah, gave notice that his vocal group expects the Security Council to meet the same high standards as the ICC prosecutor. VOA has the interview http://www.voanews.com/english/Africa/2008-07-15-voa43.cfm.
Finally the OIC has rung in with a statement by its General Secretary to the effect that the attempt to seek the arrest of Bashir represents a "double standard." The OIC jefe clearly means that if Omar the Butcher ends up in the hoosegow in the Hague, OIC demands that he be joined in durance vile by any number of Israeli political and military figures. You can check the Geek's interpretation at http://www.oic-oci.org/oicnew/topic_detail.asp?t_id=1226.
Omar and his regime are not nice. The Sudanese government both under Omar and his predecessors has shown a remarkable appetite for bloodshed and an amazing willingness to see large numbers of Sudanese (particularly those who are Black and non-Muslim) die as a result of starvation caused by government action as well as more active measures. In principle, bringing the entire thuggish crew of mass killers to trial is a fine idea.
But we must remember the yawning gap between principle and practice. That gap serves to define the universe of unintended consequences which may well ensue. In Sudan these consequences might well entail further suffering and death.
Beyond the Sudan the consequences which may very well result from the precedent established by an arrest warrant bearing the name Omar al-Bashir could spread very wide. Politics and ideology permeate the air of High Minded international entities such as the ICC. Much as the Geek is uncomfortable with having a position which coincides with that of the current administration (let alone the PRC), he has to agree that the ICC is a field of landmines and one must walk very, very softly and slowly in such an area.