By Stephen Gowans
A reporter for the Toronto Globe and Mail, Geoffrey York, says the warrant for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, expected to be issued by the International Criminal Court next week, will be hailed as a sign that nobody is above the law and even a sitting president has no immunity from prosecution. (“ICC readies first arrest warrant against head of state,” February 26, 2009).
Mr. York is indeed correct in predicting this will be said, but what will be said, and what the reality is, are miles apart.
There are two ways the leaders of the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China, and whatever allies they care to protect, can, and do, enjoy immunity from prosecution: By refusing to recognize the jurisdiction of the court, true of the US, China and Russia, and by wielding their veto power over the UN Security Council’s authority to order the court to investigate grave breaches of international law.
In matters of the court, it would be more apt to say that international law is like a spider web. Only the weak get caught in it, while the leaders of powerful countries brush it aside.