Until recently most autocrats believed they had no one to answer to, except the god they pretended to believe in. But as the Roman statesman Cicero is reported to have uttered in deploring the viciousness and corruption of his age, "O tempora o mores!" (Oh, the times! Oh, the customs!) Yes, things are beginning to change. Perhaps creeping in slowly; but nevertheless change is coming.
‘Justice’ is a word that is beginning to frighten the daylights out of some leaders.
As wrote Raghida Dergham, the well-respected New York-based correspondent for the pan-Arab Al-Hayat newspaper, published out of London: "Justice has entered part of the Arab lexicon this week, through the two gates of Lebanon and Sudan, to deter from political assassinations, rape, killing, torture and expulsions, and to inaugurate the era of ending impunity."
She refers, of course, to the workings of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which is to run the tribunal in Lebanon, investigating the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and which recently issued the arrest warrant against Sudan’s President Omar Bashir, accusing him of responsibility in the genocide in Darfur, a province of Sudan.
As can be expected, pundits in the Arab world are leaping to their microphones to defend the presumed butcher of Darfur by claiming the ICC is acting out on orders from the CIA, the Mossad and, the usual ridiculous rhetoric that is typically associated in defending the enemies of democracy .
Rather than welcome the arrival of justice to the region, delayed as it may be, the natural defense mechanism from many parts of the Middle East has been to shout one of the most over-used mantras whenever something goes wrong: "It is a conspiracy against the Arabs."
The first step in defeating the enemy, as Chairman Mao often said, is to know the enemy. (He was only citing Sun Tsu, without giving proper attribution to the author of the "Art of War"). In the case of the Arab world, the enemy to get to know is the enemy within.
The Arab world should stop fighting the demons that live within many; and start to embrace the rulings of the ICC. It is a guarantee that even the most ruthless of dictators cannot remain immune to the extremely long arm of the law. Especially when it comes in the form of an international court.