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Sudan: peace or justice?

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Robin Lustig | 23:11 UK time, Monday, 14 July 2008

Suppose you've got evidence that points strongly to someone being guilty of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

But suppose you're told that if you charge him, many more people may well die, the conflict could worsen, and any hope of a meaningful process of negotiation would dwindle.

Do you prosecute, or don't you?

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, has answered in the affirmative: he is seeking the arrest of President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan.

Mr Moreno-Ocampo's view is that he is a prosecutor, not a diplomat. For him, justice is what counts. And there are those who say you can have no real peace without justice.

On the other hand, where's the incentive for President Bashir to participate in meaningful negotiations if there's an arrest warrant for genocide hanging over him?

No wonder the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, who's just been in talks with the President in Khartoum reported on his blog: "I came away from Khartoum very concerned about the imminent risk of even higher levels of instability."

According to the former US special envoy for Sudan, Andrew Natsios: "This indictment may well shut off the last remaining hope for a peaceful settlement for the country."

These are never easy decisions to make: before you make up your mind, you'd do well to look at the Making Sense of Darfur blog here.

Alex de Waal, co-author with Julie Flint, of an excellent book about Darfur, has written an invaluable background to the issue here.

When you've read it, let me know what you think.


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