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Security Council debates action in Sudan

Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir

Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir

This morning’s New York Times is reporting that the United Nations Security Council Security Council was unable to reach agreement on Friday on a statement relating to the ICC warrant for Al-Bashir. The Times explains:

The Security Council deadlocked on Friday over taking any action on the tempest that erupted over the indictment of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan on war crimes charges and his subsequent expulsion of 13 aid organizations.

Mr. Bashir’s supporters, led by Libya and China, insisted that any official statement issued by the Council simultaneously address the potential humanitarian crisis and a possible deferral of the charges, while Western nations blasted the idea of linking the two issues and warned of a potential humanitarian catastrophe that could affect millions.

The reference to a deferral relates to Security Council authority under Article 16 of the Rome Statute, which provides:

Article 16 Deferral of investigation or prosecution

No investigation or prosecution may be commenced or proceeded with under this Statute for a period of 12 months after the Security Council, in a resolution adopted under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, has requested the Court to that effect; that request may be renewed by the Council under the same conditions.

The expulsion of humanitarian organizations from Sudan clearly makes the situation worse. It seems to me the least the Council could do is issue a statement condemning Bashir’s expulsion of those organizations. Linking this to a possible deferral under Article 16 seems absurd. But it raises a larger question about whether a deferral should be considered. What do you think?

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Anthony Clark Arend is Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the Director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service in the Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Commentary and analysis at the intersection of international law and politics.