Monday, May 18, 2009

Voluntary Appearance

A Darfuri rebel commander, indicted by the ICC for war crimes, has shown up voluntarily in The Hague to face prosecution.
Bahr Idriss Abu Garda spoke only briefly during his short court appearance at The Hague, to thank the court.

Garda surrendered himself to the court voluntarily.

His spokesman said earlier he was not guilty and that he had come to The Hague to show an unwavering commitment to justice.

"We know how innocent he is. After the court, he will be freed. He will return to Darfur to continue his struggle," said Tadjadine Bechirniam, communications director for Garda.
"There should be no immunity for anyone. We show our commitment to justice, to support justice for people in Darfur and Sudan," Bechirniam said in explaining why Garda is voluntarily appearing before the court. Garda believes in the court's independence, his spokesman said.

This is a daring move, and one obviously meant to highlight the distinction between the rebel groups (willing to face responsibility and the rule of law), and the Sudanese government (defiant and flouting its legal obligations). Of course, if Garda is convicted all PR gains might be lost.

Meanwhile, from the vantage point of the ICC this is a rarity isn't it? Most (not all, of course) of the time when someone is summoned before an American criminal court, they voluntarily appear. The ICC, by contrast, is normally ignored, and its targets tend to adopt a "catch me if you can" posture. One defendant (acting out of political calculations) won't change that, but it is a development worth noting.

More from Kevin Jon Heller (who, among other things, highlights the hypocrisy of some of the local African states in this little drama).

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