Yesterday, as anticipated, ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo asked the pre-trial chamber of the ICC to issue an arrest warrant for Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir for genocide and crimes against humanity. Also as anticipated, this is causing serious debates within the international legal community, which is divided over the wisdom of Mr. Ocampo’s strategy.

UN Dispatch has a pretty good wrap-up of the various arguments, which (and correct me if I’ve left one out) go something like this:

1) Indicting Bashir will only make his regime carry out more violence in Darfur, and will endanger the UN/AU hybrid peacekeeping force and the humanitarian missions underway in the region. Also, this will make any kind of peaceful settlement impossible.

2) Bashir was attacking the UN/AU force and the aid workers already, so and there is no peace or peace process to threaten. And Darfurians want Bashir prosecuted.

3) Without enforcement mechanisms, the ICC will realistically never catch Bashir anyway, and this will only evoke more public cynicism about the weaknesses of international justice.

4) Bashir and his regime are carrying out, at the very least, massive crimes against humanity and probably genocide, so "they’ll never catch" him is a dumb argument. It’s ridiculous to argue that a head of state should be given a free pass because he committed the very worst crimes.

I am not sure which argument I find most compelling right now, because I find all of them compelling for different reasons.

Meanwhile, in other serious international crimes news…. American domestic media has done a really poor job of covering the revelations that a 2007 International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) report concluded that the interrogation techniques used against detainees at Guantanamo Bay were "categorically torture" (and thus a war crime) and could leave senior members of the Bush Administration vulnerable to prosecution at home or abroad. And the Administration and its enablers took this quite seriously in their own perverse way.

From Glenn Greenwald’s blog:

Harper‘s Scott Horton yesterday interviewed Jane Mayer about her new book, The Dark Side The first question he asked was about the Bush administration’s fear
that they would be criminally prosecuted for implementing what the
International Red Cross had categorically described as "torture."
Mayer responded "that inside the White House there [had] been growing fear of criminal prosecution,
particularly after the Supreme Court ruled in the Hamdan case that the
Geneva Conventions applied to the treatment of the detainees," and that
it was this fear that led the White House to demand (and, of course,
receive) immunity for past interrogation crimes as part of the Military
Commissions Act of 2006.

George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley discussed these issues on Countdown.

Good grief.