When Allied troops liberated the Nazi death camps General Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander in Europe, insisted that everything they found was recorded on film. He predicted that unless the heaps of wasted bodies and the gas ovens were documented, "some bastard" would deny it happened.
The world has been wrestling with what constitutes genocide and massive human rights abuses ever since. We are also in two minds about what to do with the architects of genocide. Hence the double standards we apply when deciding which totalitarian dictators should be sent to the International Criminal Court, and which should sit on the UN Human Rights Committee.
Field Marshall Bashir of Sudan is in the top tier of repressive dictators. Yet, he is secure in the knowledge that he can, with impunity, cleanse his country of the awkward elements who disagree with his twisted Islamist ideology. To date he and his proxies are responsible for the deaths of an estimated two million people in South Sudan, and 300,000 people in Darfur -Waging Peace collected evidence, accepted by the ICC, from children who witnessed these atrocities. Even now, his armed forces bomb civilians in Darfur and along the border with newly independent South Sudan. Bashir slaughters in a media vacuum, denying access to the press or aid agencies.
The Sudanese president has been indicted for genocide in Darfur, but there are no serious attempts to bring him to justice because each permanent member of the UN Security Council has a vested interest in the status quo. The Russians sell Khartoum weapons; the Chinese sell weapons and buy 80% of Sudan's oil; and the French have oil interests.
The British and Americans deserve praise for pushing Bashir to allow the long-suffering Southerners to separate, but both now turn a blind eye to Khartoum's renewed campaign of violence against its own people. Why? In the case of the UK, we are schizophrenic, concerned about the humanitarian disaster but keen to develop trade links with the regime.
Following the American lead, Britain also regards the avowedly Islamist Bashir as "on our side" in the war on terror, just as we once formed alliances with unsavoury mass murders to defeat Communism.
Bashir has cleverly leveraged his previous friendship with Osama bin Laden, promising Western security agencies he will share his knowledge of al Qaeda. Yet, he boasts to the Arab and Muslim world he is best friends with Iran, Hamas and Hizbollah. Curiously, the West ignores his extreme Islamist rhetoric, hoping for snippets of intelligence.
Our selective concern is part of a pattern when we lack a vested interest. Hence we disregarded multiple warnings from UN officials before the Rwandan genocide. We also discounted Milosevic's bloodcurdling promises to purge the former Yugoslavia of non-Serbs.
The ICC is a worthy institution only if we are consistent in applying our lofty values. In Sudan, we must implement the UN resolutions targeting the architects of this long-running genocide. Only then will the world's mass murderers take us at our word.
Rebecca Tinsley is founder and chair of human rights NGO Waging Peace
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