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Blogosphere Debate Emerges on Use of International Justice as Leverage in Sudan

Anti-genocide partners John Prendergast and George Clooney recently penned an opinion piece in USA Today, calling for the United States to use both carrots and sticks to leverage Sudan towards peace in Darfur and throughout the country. Prendergast later wrote that the article is, in part, a response to Special Envoy Gen. Scott Gration’s recent concern about the lack of U.S. leverage in Sudan. As Bec Hamilton noted in a recent blog post, the clear-cut call for the balanced use of incentives and pressures is an important development for the Sudan activist community, which has previously expressed "skepticism" towards the use of incentives by the U.S. government. Prendergast and Clooney recommend the use of a wide variety of multilateral tools to both pressure and incentivize the Sudanese regime towards positive change:

On the carrots side, the U.S. should present a quid pro quo with an expiration date by the end of the year: In exchange for peace in Darfur and the South, the U.S. would move to normalize relations with Sudan and work in the U.N. Security Council to suspend the war crimes indictment of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir under Article 16 of the International Criminal Court charter. On the sticks side, a U.S.-led initiative should build international support for severe consequences for anyone promoting war, whether they are ruling party officials, militias, rebels, or southern Sudan’s leaders.

Bec Hamilton, a human rights lawyer and author of an upcoming book on Darfur activism, criticized Prendergast and Clooney for their insistence on leveraging international justice:

The ICC’s work can be suspended by the UN Security Council in the interests of peace, but we should always be clear that the ICC is not a bargaining chip to be used to gain leverage to push for peace. Justice is not a tap to be turned on and off at will by countries looking for leverage – even with the best of intentions. Indeed the very vision behind the creation of the ICC is to break away from this old world view where justice is like any other item in the “leverage toolbox” of pressures and incentives; it should not be seen as a tradeable commodity.

The discourse on international justice’s role in multilateral diplomacy is a useful and important component of reaching an equitable solution to Sudan’s conflicts. On that note, I attended the Human Rights Watch Film Festival yesterday, for a screening of a new documentary on the Special Court for Sierra Leone, entitled War Don Don. For those interested in continuing this critical discussion–on the contributions of international justice to the maintenance of peace, on the successes and failings of courts responsible for prosecuting genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, and on the impact of these courts on post-conflict societies–I highly recommend the film. The last screening is tonight, but HBO will screen the documentary in the fall.


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