The International Criminal Court is playing a dangerous game of chicken with a leader who has few qualms about committing genocide.
The court issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir on Wednesday for war crimes amid the protracted civil war which thrust the Darfur region into chaos and the international spotlight.
Bashir’s response was as defiant as it was sadistic.
He danced with supporters in the capital of Khartoum who were protesting the issuance of the arrest warrant. He denounced it as an attempt at neo-colonialism trying to undermine his nation’s sovereignty.
But what came next was worse.
On Thursday, the Sudanese government expelled 10 aid agencies which are part of a network of international support keeping the frayed remnants of society together in Darfur. It’s not all of them, but in a huge area with a U.N.-estimated 4.7 million people in the crosshairs, it makes an already grave situation frightening in its magnitude.
The government has accused the aid organizations–such as Oxfam and Save the Children–of fostering an anti-government political agenda. Sudan’s representative to the African Union even had the gall to suggest the expulsions were coincidental to the indictment.
In the meantime, the remaining agencies–some of which have Christian roots such as World Vision and World Relief–are left in the difficult position to pick up the slack. In a press release, World Vision said its license hasn’t been revoked as it prepares to serve more people on top of its 500,000 estimated in camps around Darfur.
This leaves the court with an uncomfortable decision forced by Bashir’s recklessness to perhaps initiate a quid pro quo of withdrawing the indictment for the return of international help. As much as Bashir deserves a trial, the court may be best served in the short run to back off and go after Bashir if and when his grip on power loosens through domestic upheavals.
The protection of the people already suffering tremendously needs to take priority over what, for now, is a well-intentioned but unenforceable indictment.