Thursday, June 09, 2005

Darfur Update: ICC Opens Investigation, NATO to Support African Union Troops

I am back on the blog after some out-of-town travel and have been reading with great interest Roger Alford's dispatches from India. Welcome, Roger! I've also been catching up with developments this past week. On June 6, the ICC Chief Prosecutor announced that the ICC would officially open an investigation into the situation in Darfur. This comes after the Security Council referral of the Darfur situation to the ICC in March. The ICC has, apparently, based its decision to investigate on the report issued by the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur earlier this year. That report, you may recall, concluded that the ongoing atrocities there did not constitute genocide, but did meet the definition of "crimes against humanity."

Earlier today, NATO agreed to lend logistical support (mostly in the form of airlifting troops from West Africa to Sudan) to the African Union, which is planning to double its troop presence in Darfur in the next month. This is no substitute for a NATO force, but is a small step in the right direction.

We have blogged a great deal about Darfur over the past few months, including here, here, and here. I have advocated for stronger humanitarian intervention -- including a NATO-led force -- and have been skeptical of the value of pressing for prosecutions prior to resolving the ongoing conflict and stopping ongoing crimes. I'd like to be wrong about that.

Along with the Uganda case, the Darfur investigation (one, interestingly, not opposed by the United States after it allowed the UN referral) will be an important test of the viability and potential future value of the ICC. And the NATO agreement will be a test of the seriousness with which the outside world takes the commitment to stop crimes against humanity. As we often say at Opinio Juris, stay tuned.