ICC prosecutor: ‘No tangible accountability or justice for the people of Darfur after 17 years’
ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan has expressed frustration that 17 years have now passed without any tangible accountability or justice for the people of Darfur. In the ICC’s 34th report to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on the situation in Darfur and Sudan, Khan said that while Sudan remains at a delicate stage in its political transition after its 2018 popular uprising and the October 2021 military coup, expedited cooperation with the ICC is the only viable path to securing long-delayed justice for survivors of crimes against humanity in Darfur.”
In particular, ICC Attorney General Karim Khan told the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in New York on Monday that the lack of cooperation from Sudan under the leadership of former Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir led the Court’s last prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, to hibernate the investigation.
However, he said, following the 2018 uprising that toppled Al Bashir and put Sudan on the path to political transition, the Court was able to visit the country for the first time in many years. and further progress has been made. On July 9, 2021, his office successfully secured confirmation of 31 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity against Ali Muhammad Ali Abdelrahman, senior leader of the Janjaweed militia in Darfur, for crimes such as murder, rape, torture and attacks on civilians. population. This trial will begin in April, marking the first-ever trial before the International Criminal Court resulting from a referral by the Security Council.
ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan briefs the UN Security Council in New York on Monday (UN TV)
He went on to note that four other people linked to the situation in Darfur are currently the subject of arrest warrants from the Court, including Al Bashir; former Interior Minister Abdel Raheem Muhammad Hussein; and former South Kordofan governor Ahmed Harun. The fourth individual, the former commander of the Justice and Equality Movement, Abdallah Banda, remains at large. Referring to his first meetings with Sudanese Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok, members of the country’s Sovereignty Council and other local officials, he recalled that the Court had signed a memorandum of understanding with the government in which, for the first time , the latter agreed to facilitate a full-time presence of the Court on the ground in Sudan.
Regretting that the military coup in Sudan on October 25, 2021 marked a major setback in the work of the Court, he nevertheless indicated that his team had been able to travel to Khartoum in December to obtain new assurances from the government that their work could continue. He described his enhanced support for his office’s team in Darfur, including additional resources and the appointment of a pro bono special adviser dedicated exclusively to the Darfur investigation. Proclaiming his commitment to moving forward, he reiterated his call on the government to ensure that his Office has safe and secure access to documents, crime scenes and witnesses in the months ahead.
As Council members took the floor to share their views, several welcomed recent progress by the Court and urged the Government of Sudan – despite the unrest resulting from the October coup – to redouble its efforts. commitment to cooperate with the Office of the Prosecutor. However, several expressed concern that external actors exert undue pressure or influence in Sudan, noting that transitional justice provisions were clearly spelled out in the 2020 Juba Peace Agreement and urging partners of Sudan to give the country the necessary space to implement them. Other speakers raised long-standing concerns about the Court more generally, stressing the critical importance of respecting Sudan’s judicial sovereignty.
The representative of Albania expressed his support for the work of the Court and its role in bringing justice to the victims of heinous crimes against humanity. “Without accountability, human rights will be denied, crimes will be perpetuated, and impunity for past conflict-related crimes will persist,” he said. Expressing concern about the precarious security situation in Sudan, as well as the continued human rights violations by the military authorities, he joined other speakers in welcoming the progress made in the Abd- Al-Rahman and urge the Government of the Sudan to continue to deepen its cooperation. with the Court.
The representative of Ireland expressed concern that the military coup of 25 October had interrupted the significant progress made so far in the investigations of the Prosecutor. Citing recent reports of civilian deaths, rape of women and girls, forced displacement of thousands of people and destruction of property — acts that could fall within the jurisdiction of the Court — he called for a a return to the progress made before October, including the conclusion of a new memorandum of understanding and a plan to deploy a team of full-time investigators to Sudan.
Other speakers highlighted the progress made in Sudan and the need to give the country the time and space to implement its own transitional justice arrangements. The representative of China, for his part, said that Darfur has entered a new stage of peacebuilding with the signing of the Juba Peace Agreement. Urging the international community to help Sudan assume primary responsibility for ensuring its own peace and security, he said the country’s partners should remain patient enough and the court should strictly adhere to the principle of complementarity, with due respect of the judicial sovereignty of Sudan.
The delegate from Kenya said that the people of Sudan had a promising and at the same time unstable national dialogue on the nature of government, democracy, justice and accountability. In its engagement with Sudan, the Court should embrace the aspirations of the Sudanese people as reflected in their established and desired justice and accountability processes. Furthermore, she noted that resolution 1593 (2005) invites the Court and the African Union to discuss practical modalities to facilitate the work of the Court, including the possibility of conducting proceedings in the region.
The representative of the Russian Federation, meanwhile, expressed his country’s long-standing concerns about the work of the Court. Noting that the credibility of any judicial body rests on its openness and transparency, he said: “Unfortunately, the [Court] is still far from these standards. Emphasizing that the Charter of the United Nations does not confer on the Court the right to interpret the will of the Council, he stresses that the main objective in Sudan should be to achieve national reconciliation. “The [Court] has done nothing to that end in its 15 years of working on the situation in Sudan,” he stressed, adding that the people of the country can achieve justice on their own.
The delegate from Sudan said that bringing justice to Darfur is one of the main pillars of the work of the transitional authorities in his country. “Sudan will remain committed to accountability,” he stressed, emphasizing the importance of truth, justice and healing the wounds of victims. Noting that the authorities are working to implement the Juba Peace Agreement and enact the transitional justice provisions therein, he said the country has adopted a law on transitional justice and developed a national plan. protection of civilians. Sudan is cooperating closely with the Court as outlined in the 2021 Memorandum of Understanding and is implementing plans to improve security and justice in Darfur, he added.
Also speaking were representatives of Mexico, Brazil, United Arab Emirates, United States, Ghana, United Kingdom, France, Gabon, India and Norway.