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International Criminal Court/Sudan: Prosecutor Calls for End to Impunity

(June 20, 2017) On June 8, 2017, Fatou Bensouda, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), called again for the United Nations Security Council and the world in general to support efforts to pursue justice for violations of human rights in Darfur, a region in western Sudan. (Ram Eachambadi, ICC Prosecutor Urges International Community to Help Bring Darfur War Crime Suspects to Justice, PAPER CHASE (June 10, 2017).) Her recent statement to the United Nations was her 25th report to the Security Council on the situation in Darfur, and it was made pursuant to Security Council Resolution 1593.  (Statement Before the United Nations Security Council on the Situation in Darfur, Pursuant to UNSCR 1593 (2005), ICC website (June 8, 2017); U.N. Security Council, Security Council Resolution 1593 (2005) [on Violations of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law in Darfur, Sudan], S/RES/1593 (2005) (Mar. 31, 2005), REFWORLD.)  That Resolution referred the issue of violations of international law and human rights in Darfur to the ICC and directed the ICC prosecutor to make regular reports to the Council on actions taken on the matter.  (Security Council Resolution 1593, supra.)

In the recent report, Bensouda noted that multiple arrest warrants have been issued by the ICC for crimes committed in Darfur, including warrants for Omar al-Bashir (President of Sudan), Ahmad Harun, Abdel Raheem Hussein, Ali Kushayb, and Abdallah Banda. She went on to point out that the hope that justice would be achieved was not as yet realized, because none of the accused have been arrested.  (Statement before the United Nations Security Council, supra.)  In addition to discussing the situation with regard to prosecutions for past serious offenses, Bensouda pointed out that problems persist in Darfur, stating that “internally displaced persons continue to be subjected to multiple crimes, including in particular, alleged attacks against their camps and sexual and gender based violence.”  (Id.)

Bensouda asked for continued support for her office’s efforts in Sudan, criticizing countries that failed to arrest al-Bashir when he was in their jurisdictions and stating:

Accountability is a pre-requisite for sustainable peace in Darfur. My Office continues to seek this accountability. I  ask this Council to fully assume its responsibilities arising from Resolution 1593 and to support our efforts, in the interests of justice, stability and sustainable peace in Darfur … .  Lest we forget; the olive branch of peace is barren without the trunk of blind justice.  (Eachambadi, supra.)

Background

There has been conflict in the Darfur region for more than a decade, with the formation of rebel armies in the impoverished, drought-stricken area even before the beginning of civil war in 2003. Although all the residents of the region share the Muslim religion, there is an ethnic divide between the Arab groups and non-Arab Africans. An Arab supremacist movement, active in the area since the late 1980s, has been widely accused of insurgency and violent actions against non-Arab residents. There are millions of internally displaced people in the region, in addition to the many who have left the country due to the conflict. Non-Arab residents, who suffered numerous civilian deaths and sexual assaults, in addition to the bombings and burnings of their villages, have accused the Sudanese government of siding with the Arab insurgents. (James Copnall, Darfur Conflict: Sudan’s Bloody Stalemate, BBC NEWS (Apr. 29, 2013).)

In September 2016, the human rights advocacy organization Amnesty International alleged that chemical weapons had been used by the Sudanese government forces repeatedly against the civilian population in a remote part of the region. (Sudan: Credible Evidence of the Use of Chemical Weapons to Kill and Maim Hundreds of Civilians Including Children in Darfur Revealed, Amnesty International website (Sept. 29, 2016).) According to Tirana Hassan, Director of Crisis Research for Amnesty International, the situation in Darfur has not improved since the outbreak of the war. Hassan stated,

Scorched earth, mass rapes, killings and bombs – these are the same war crimes being committed in Darfur as in 2004 when the world first woke up to what was happening. This region has been stuck in a catastrophic cycle of violence for more than 13 years, nothing has changed except that the world has stopped watching. (Id.)