Why India will not hand Al Bashir over to the International Criminal Court

As The India-Africa summit begins today in New Delhi, India, the International Criminal Court (ICC) had on Monday, requested the cooperation of the Indian government in the arrest of Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al Bashir. Al Bashir is to face charges for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, perpetuated in Darfur. President Al Bashir arrived in the country yesterday, Wednesday, the 28th, but it is unclear if Indian authorities will comply with ICC’s demand to arrest him. Though India is not a member of the ICC, the United Nations Security Council has put out an order for Al Bashir to be arrested.

In June, the ICC ordered South Africa to arrest and remand Al Bashir when he attended the African Union summit in Johannesburg, but the South African government did not comply, even though it is a signatory of the Rome Statute of the ICC. Al Bashir has visited five other ICC member states since he was charged with these crimes, but none seem interested in remanding him.

India hopes to foster better relationships with African nations and their leaders through the India-Africa summit, which ends today. Trade between India and African countries has grown 20 times over since 2000, and has doubled in the past 5 years to a peak value of nearly $72 billion (2014). India is also the second largest importer to Sudan after China; bilateral trades between the two countries increased from $327 million dollars in 2005 to $1.4 billion dollars in 2015. Therefore, it is not difficult to see why India would not cooperate with the ICC. India equally harbours hopes of joining the United Nations Security Council. However, it could afford to delay that ambition while it secures close ties with Africa.

Why are countries reluctant to arrest Al Bashir?
If countries are unwilling to arrest Bashir, is it indicative that they approve his misdeeds? Both signatories and non-signatories of the ICC Rome Statute have shown reluctance in arresting Al Bashir. Besides the AU’s resolve not to hand over African leaders to the ICC, there are perhaps other reasons involved.

The ICC has shown its inefficiency in enforcing its own authority, and therefore is being taken for granted by these nations. The apex court presumes upon its own authority, which seems to anger these nations. The United Nations is not helping either; they do not give the ICC sufficient backing in carrying out its mandate. Legal obligations to the ICC, for example arrest warrants, are only limited to the countries under the ICC and the country affected (case in point, Sudan). The UN Security Council does not extend these obligations to other non-member states (India) hence results in the delay in carrying out justice.

From every indication, this furore around Al Bashir’s arrest is unlikely to end soon. Since most of the ICC cases concern African countries, coupled with the fact that Africa seems to be liberating itself from ICC jurisdiction, perhaps it’s not crazy to think the ICC’s authority is losing its tenacity.

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