No western power undertook perceptible actions or investigations, even in three separate counts of genocide for which the ICC issued its second warrant against al-Bashir. While al-Bashir was in power, the country study on Sudan by the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress observed: "September 11, 2001, terror­ist attacks against the United States and Washington's strong reaction to them further encouraged Sudan to improve relations with the West." The U.S. had even lifted economic and trade sanctions on Sudan.

  • What saved al-Bashir from the wrath of the west while Colonel Gaddafi did not get any significant concessions in this regard?

2 Answers 2


International law is evolving over time. One trend in recent decades was to go away from strict respect for Westphalian Sovereignty towards the Responsibility to Protect which implies both a right and a duty to intervene in gross human rights abuses. This was an uneven process. The West vacillated between a desire to intervene out of moral considerations and a desire not to intervene after difficult experiences like Somalia.

And two permanent members and veto powers on the UNSC, Russia and China, are deeply suspicious of western motives and afraid that any precedent might be used to come after their governments in the future. Notably, Russia feels that the West overreached in their implementation of Resolution 1973.

So part of it is a matter of timing and notoriety, and another part is Realpolitik. There are refugee boats departing from Libya to Europe, and that concerned the West more than events in Sudan.


The arrest warrant for al-Bashir was the first warrant issued against an acting head of state, so there is not much precedent for what to do in such a situation. The warrant was somewhat contentious, with some arguing that heads of state should be immune against prosecution, and others that the fact that the ICC has predominately targeted Africans so far is a sign of systemic racism.

A straight-forward interpretation of what a country should do about an ICC arrest warrant would be to arrest that person if he enters the country. As far as I can tell, al-Bashir did not visit any country considered as "the West" since the warrant was issued. He visted some African countries who declined to enforce the warrant, South Africa where a court ordered him arrested, but the executive let him leave, and India, who is not a signatory to the ICC.

There were rumours that France might consider intercepting his plane when the situation arose. In response, al-Bashir traveled only with fighter escort. Intercepting a travelling head of state (regardless of the reasons) would be enough of an upset to international norms, but shooting down his escort makes it a clear act of war.

So, short of an act of war, there is not much the West could have done.

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