It is “an understatement” to say the victims of Sudan’s Darfur conflict have lost all hope, the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) said today, reiterating her “frustration and despair” at the United Nations Security Council's “inaction and paralysis”, and urged it to take firm action to bring those indicted for war crimes to justice.
In its resolution 1593 (2005), the Council asked the Hague-based Court to investigate war crimes in Darfur, and in 2009, ICC judges issued arrest warrants against Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir and other top officials for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Darfur.
“The time has come for this Council and States Parties to seriously devise strategies for arresting those alleged to be responsible for these crimes,” Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told the 15-member body during her office’s latest briefing on the conflict between the Government and various armed groups which led to the deaths hundreds of thousands of people and displaced two million more since it first erupted in early 2003.
“This is the only way to stop the seemingly endless suffering of the Darfur victims,” she said, calling it a “serious indictment on this Council and on States Parties” that Mr. Bashir and others have been able to show “blatant disregard” for the Council’s resolutions and travel to various countries without fear of arrest.
“The situation in Darfur continues to deteriorate and the plight of Darfur victims continues to go from bad to worse,” she stressed noting that this year alone 460,000 people have been newly displaced, with the numbers of people killed, abducted and displaced growing each year.
“This Council's silence even when notified of clear failures and/or violations by UN Member States of their obligations to comply with this Council's resolutions only serves to add insult to the plight of Darfur's victims.”
Giving an overview of alleged crimes which continue to be committed and “cry out for full investigations,” Ms. Bensouda cited allegations of Defence Ministry attacks targeting civilians as well as attacks by rebel movements; criminal acts against displaced persons and abductions of, and attacks on humanitarian aid workers and peacekeepers.
She also noted aerial bombardments and “the pervasive and corrosive effect of organized sexual and gender-based violence” on women and girls, which remains seriously under-reported.
Ms. Bensouda said Resolution 1593 represented hope for Darfur's victims: “hope that there would be an end for their suffering; hope that there would be accountability for crimes and that justice would not only be done but would be seen to be done; and above all, hope that lasting peace and security would return to Darfur.
“That hope was strengthened even further when this Council mandated my Office to report on progress every six months to enable the Council to remain actively seized of their plight. Sadly, with each report provided by my Office to the Council, the hopes of the victims of Darfur have faded. With this eighteenth report, it would be an understatement to say that all hope is lost.”
She noted that the 10-year conflict has cost UN and humanitarian aid organizations more than $10.5 billion and led to the deaths of 47 aid workers, with many more injured and abducted, and with attacks on peacekeepers appearing to become the norm, with a record number of 57 killings.
“In spite of the frustrations, challenges and obstacles, my Office's determination to carry out the mandate given to it by Resolution 1593 has not and will not waver,” she stressed.
But, she added, “Without stronger action by this Council and States Parties, the situation in the Sudan is unlikely to improve.”