Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)
Omar Hassan Bashir has been the president of Sudan for the past 25 years. During the quarter of a century, Sudan faced many devastating issues. The country experienced division and civil wars resulting in thousands of casualties. Many people who accuse him of mismanagement say he should have had stepped down long ago. The fact, however, is that Sudan had been facing many problems long before Bashir took the reins of the country in his hands. Since its independence from Britain, the north and south Sudan were completely different from each other. The ultimate division of the country did not come as a surprise to those who knew Sudan’s political dynamics well. To them it was inevitable. Unfortunately, however, the division came at a very high price in terms of casualties. Around 10 years ago, the Sudanese western region of Darfur saw one of the most devastating civil wars in the world with atrocities that attracted the attention of the international community. It was mainly the Darfur crisis that put the global spotlight on Sudan and its president. Consequently, the Sudanese president became a wanted man based on a 2009 ruling by the International Criminal Court (ICC). This past week, Bashir came close to being arrested when he was visiting South Africa. He went there after guarantees from the South African government that Bashir would not be prevented from leaving South Africa. After the brief drama, the Sudanese president is back in his country. The ordeal Bashir went through has raised several questions like who can decide or make rules to arrest leader of a sovereign country? Bashir is accused of committing war crimes in the Darfur region. I, like many unbiased people, would like to dispute such claims. The Sudanese president reportedly did not know about the happenings in Darfur or at least he was not aware of everything on the ground. Does the ICC have the mandate to try any world leader? What if that leader is good or acceptable to his people back home but he or she is responsible for creating chaos in other countries like Iraq, for instance. Two key world figures were the architects of the Iraq invasion — US President George W. Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. Iraq was invaded on the pretext of weapons of mass destruction in the possession of Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi government’s alleged links to Al-Qaeda. The weapons of mass destruction were never found and the other allegation remained just an allegation. The American president responsible for the destruction and the current chaos in Iraq has gradually faded into oblivion. As for his British accomplice, he continues to make waves by issuing statements and perhaps remain in the news. My question is: Does Blair qualify for a trial (and arrest) by the International Criminal Court for his obvious role in the destruction of Iraq? Well to answer this question, let us talk about what Blair did after leaving 10 Downing Street, the official residence of the premiers of a country, which takes pride in being one of the oldest democracies in the world. Ironically, this country is also known to be the greatest invader of other countries in the known history of mankind. Blair, as it later transpired was not actually following in the footsteps of Bush. He was personally very enthusiastic about invading Iraq. He dispatched young British men and women to a land that they barely knew, for no apparent reason. Yes, they were successful in the invasion of Iraq but many of them lost their lives and many more sustained major injuries. Blair became the only western leader who made money out of the suffering of Iraqis and his own people. It was not only the British citizens but even the members of the British Parliament were not fully aware of the reasons behind that invasion. Over time Blair became power hungry and would work for any country or organization that paid money and gave him more power. Apparently he wanted to continue staying at the best hotels and flying on private jets taking along his whole family. He wanted to show to the world that he was a world class and caring philanthropist. How could he justify his claim when he charges exorbitantly to speak at global forums? Why does he charge hundreds of thousands of dollars just to give speeches about peace and need for peace when during his tenure as the envoy of the Middle East Peace Quartet he failed to take any concrete step to ensure peace in the region? It is true that he has left that position but perhaps in search of some more lucrative assignment. Blair did far more damage in Iraq and Afghanistan than what the Sudanese president allegedly did in Darfur. Should we assume that the western leaders are above every existing law on earth? Blair’s unrealistic enthusiasm about the Iraq invasion continues to haunt the British society in one way or the other. If Sudan’s Bashir is in court, Blair should be next to him. He should be deprived of every penny he made after 2003. It is called blood money. Just like the diamond money the rich western elite make from the sweat and blood of the poor Africans. Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. Are Western Leaders Above The Law? reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.