The president of Sudan is the ultimate party crasher.
Omar Hassan Al-Bashir has been charged with multiple counts of genocide and has been the target of numerous arrest warrants from the International Criminal Court, and yet the man has the audacity to apply for a visa to come to the United States to participate in the United Nations General Assembly.
That took some guts to want to show up in the face of people who know of your supreme guilt. Unfortunately, there would be nothing the U.S. could legally do to prevent him from attending. As the host country, the U.S. was beholden to grant travel visas to all foreign leaders that apply; they weren’t allowed to metaphorically bounce anyone they don’t like.
Knowing this, the International Criminal Court was looking for the United States’ help in an alternative solution to the problem. The ICC had asked for our country to arrest Mr. Bashir upon his arrival at the General Assembly. This proposal really left the ball in our court, because there’s nothing clear on the books about whether we could or not. There was also no real moral obligation forcing us to take action in this situation.
The only thing for certain is that we would have let the Sudanese president attend the event, though he has decided not to. However, if we again frame this event in the context of a party, it becomes clear that we couldn’t detain him, and he would have been allowed to leave on his own terms.
Some people, like the Sudanese government, believed that we don’t have the moral high ground to do this. Many agreed with the Sudanese Foreign Ministry’s statement that, “The government of the United States is not qualified morally, politically or legally to give advice on respecting international humanitarian law and human rights in light of its well-known track record of committing war crimes and genocide against entire populations, the last being its invasion of Iraq in 2003.”
In a sense, they were right. If this argument was over involvement in foreign affairs, I would agree that we would be out of line to take a stand. However, this issue was to take place on our home turf, so I don’t think the argument that our admittedly awful foreign policy disqualifies us from detaining Bashir is entirely relevant in this situation.
The reason why we can’t bring Mr. Bashir to justice is because he has not brought any harm to us. It’d be like if you were an RA busting a party on your floor. If someone showed up late reeking of weed, you could not do anything unless you physically saw him lighting a joint.
We have the same problem. Mr. Bashir could have gone to the General Assembly as an intentional act of impunity, and since he hasn’t done anything to us directly, we couldn’t lock him up. Regrettably, the World Police are going to have to go home empty-handed.
Sean Kennedy is a freshman with no declared major who knows that foxes really say “Oh, man!”Feedback and comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or @seanskenn on Twitter.