Chicago Debate Society helps host Darfur talk

By Tim Michaels

The Chicago Debate Society, in collaboration with Justice for Darfur, College Republicans, and UCDems, will hold a public debate addressing whether or not the United States should support the International Criminal Court (ICC). Sponsors of the debate—set for Thursday, May 5, in Social Sciences 122 at 5:30 p.m.—will address both the United States’ reaction to the humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan, as well as the Bush administration’s tenuous relationship with the ICC.

Government forces and proxy militiamen have killed an estimated 140,000 non-Arab Sudanese, while an additional 250,000 civilians have died from either disease, starvation, or exposure, according to the Washington-based Coalition for International Justice and experts from Northwestern and Toronto universities.

The debate will address the controversy surrounding the U.S.’s stance on the ICC. In May 2002, Bush repudiated U.S. membership by renouncing the statute that created the court. The administration argues that the ICC threatens U.S. sovereignty and that, given the U.S.’s military preponderance and responsibility for maintaining international peace and security, American citizens are vulnerable to politically motivated prosecutions by the ICC.

“The debate is designed to raise awareness about the extent and quality of the U.S. role in non-military avenues for international justice and the prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity,” said Joe Rose, a fourth-year in the College and a member of Justice for Darfur.

As a member of the United Nations Security Council, the U.S. had vetoed an earlier motion and then abstained from a vote this past April that would have allowed the ICC to prosecute crimes committed in the Darfur region. The Bush administration had advocated instead for a special ad-hoc war crimes tribunal for Darfur to be set up.

Although Sudan is a non-member state of the United Nations, the Security Council has now taken measures to prosecute crimes committed in the Darfur province. “It will be the first time the ICC investigates and prosecutes citizens of a non-party state against its own wishes,” Rose said. Members of Justice for Darfur believe that by granting such authority to the ICC, the United Nations is granting the organization the credibility that it deserves.

The debate will begin with a three-minute address, including general background information on relevant issues occurring in Darfur. There will also be two short presentations made by a member of College Republicans and UC Democrats. The formal debate will follow, with members of Chicago Debate Society (CDS) and Social Justice speaking for both sides.

“Our goal is to broadly present both sides of the discussion about the ICC rather than debate out the nuances of policy,” said Tim Fletcher, treasurer of CDS. “This will be an accessible event for every student, and we have allocated a fair chunk of time for remarks from the audience.”

There will then be two floor speeches, followed by a floor vote and an official vote from a panel of judges. Refreshments will be served while the final vote is being decided.