The Security Council has decided to refer the situation in Sudan's troubled Darfur region – where a United Nations inquiry found “serious violations of international human rights law” – to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), a move welcomed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan as one that would “ensure that those responsible for atrocities in Darfur are held to account.”
The text, which refers to developments in Darfur since 1 July 2002, was adopted just before midnight Thursday by a vote of 11 in favour, with Algeria, Brazil, China and the United States abstaining.
A statement issued by Mr. Annan's spokesman after the vote said the Secretary-General commended the Council “for using its authority under the Rome Statute to provide an appropriate mechanism to lift the veil of impunity that has allowed human rights crimes in Darfur to continue unchecked.”
The Secretary-General congratulated the Council members “for overcoming their differences to allow [it] to act to ensure that those responsible for atrocities in Darfur are held to account. He also welcomes the Council's encouragement of undertakings that complement the judicial process and promote healing and reconciliation.”
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights also welcomed the approval of the resolution as the best way to stop continuing violations and prevent future transgressions.
In a rapid follow-up, ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo asked the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur to turn over to his office the thousands of pages it searched to compile its 25 January report on rights violations for the Secretary-General.
Fighting in Darfur, located on Sudan's western flank and about the size of France, flared in early 2003 after rebels took up arms, partly in protest over the distribution of resources. The UN says some 180,000 people have died as a result of the conflict, while another 1.8 million have been forced from their homes, including about 200,000 who fled across the border to neighbouring Chad.
In February the UN inquiry into whether genocide occurred in Darfur found the Government responsible for crimes under international law and strongly recommended referring the dossier to the ICC. The probe also found credible evidence that rebel forces were responsible for possible war crimes, including murder of civilians and pillage.
The Council resolution decided that “the Government of Sudan and all other parties to the conflict in Darfur shall cooperate fully with and provide any necessary assistance to the Court and the Prosecutor pursuant to this resolution and, while recognizing that States not party to the Rome Statute have no obligation under the Statute, urges all States and concerned regional and other international organizations to cooperate fully.”
It added that “nationals, current or former officials or personnel from a contributing State outside Sudan which is not a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court shall be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of that contributing State for all alleged acts or omissions arising out of or related to operations in Sudan established or authorized by the Council or the African Union, unless such exclusive jurisdiction has been expressly waived by that contributing State.”
The costs of all operations would be borne by the States parties to the Rome Statute, which established the Court, and any other countries wanting to make voluntary contributions, it said.
The resolution also invited the ICC and the African Union (AU) to discuss practical arrangements to aid the work of the Prosecutor and Court, including the possibility of conducting the proceedings in the region so as to “contribute to regional efforts in the fight against impunity.”
Stressing the need to promote healing and reconciliation, the Council encouraged the creation of inclusive institutions, such as truth and/or reconciliation commissions, supported by the AU and the international community, as necessary, with a view to reinforcing the efforts to restore long-lasting peace.