The newly formed transitional government of Sudan took a big step in February in announcing its openness to turn former president Omar al Bashir over to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to face charges for his crimes against the people of Darfur. For many, this announcement has been decades in the making. Bashir’s violent rule has left hundreds of thousands dead, millions displaced, and an entire generation without peace. Whether he will actually face justice remains to be seen, but there exists now a spark of hope.
How Did We Get Here?
Bashir came to power through a military coup in 1989. It was a quick spiral into violent rule that came to an apex in 2003. At that time he directed his military to intentionally target civilians in Darfur in his campaign against armed groups in the region including the Justice Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A). Death, trauma, and displacement were left in Bashir’s wake. Civilians were murdered, women were raped, villages were burned to the ground, and entire communities were destroyed.
As a result of his crimes between 2003 and 2008, Bashir is wanted by the ICC on five counts of crimes against humanity, two counts of war crimes, and three counts of genocide. Over the years, he has flaunted his ICC warrants; traveling in spite of them, and living carefree.
In the face of decades of violence, the people of Darfur have pushed the international community to bring justice to Sudan. Human rights groups have called governments across the globe, the United Nations, and the ICC to step in, to arrest Bashir, and to bring him to justice. Yet, justice has always seemed out of reach. With Sudan not signatory to the ICC’s Rome Statute, and the international community unwilling to fully intervene to stop the genocide in Darfur, its citizens were left with nothing more than promises of future justice, future peace. In the meantime, an entire generation has grown up in refugee camps, unable to build stable, fulfilling lives.