Legal experts debate approach to Darfur

By Nicholas Nardini

Three prominent local legal experts discussed the merits of U.S. military intervention in Sudan at the Law School on Wednesday.

The event, co-sponsored by the Earl B. Dickerson chapter of the Black Law Student Association and the Chicago law firm Sidley Austin LLP, occurred during ongoing campus discussion surrounding divestment and intervention.

The three speakers took turns debating whether unilateral military intervention is legal or appropriate. Matthew Lippman, a professor at the University of Illinois–Chicago and a renowned legal expert on the Nazi Holocaust, focused on why the current situation is unprecedented and why an intervention would be legal.

After noting that numerous international charters, including that of the African Union, allow for unilateral intervention for preventing genocide, Lippman quoted Holocaust author Primo Levi, who has compared the world’s wealthy nations to certain Warsaw Jews who, blinded by power, traded their kinsmen to the Nazis for protection.

Eric Posner, a professor at the Law School, argued against military intervention. Posner outlined the two main problems of military intervention: lack of public support and the “law of unintended consequences.”

In support of the first issue, he pointed to former President Clinton’s haste to abandon Somalia after the death of a dozen American soldiers. Arguing the second point, Posner invoked the myriad unintended consequences of military action in Iraq and called attention to China’s heavy investment in Sudan. Sudan, he said, has one and a half times the population of Iraq, and Darfur is as large as France.

Jide Nzelibe, professor of law at Northwestern University, moderated the debate. He called attention to the prospect of supporting Darfur’s rebel groups, which have repeatedly turned down offers of peace and made demands that Nzelibe called “inordinate.”

However, Nzelibe added that African Union troops are currently present in Sudan and said that if Sudan’s neighbors were to unite in condemnation of the situation, they would likely be forced to give in and advocate increased support of the African Union.