The Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) today chided the United Nations Security Council for its “empty promises” to bring Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir to trial for atrocities in Darfur, even as his victims cry out for justice amid indiscriminate killings and mass rape.
“Despite my repeated requests for the Council to take action with respect to Sudan’s blatant disregard of its obligations, and in violation of [it’s] resolutions, my appeals continue to be unheeded,” Fatou Bensouda told the 15-member body, noting that it was the Council itself which had referred the case of Sudan to the ICC more than 10 years ago.
“I observe with great regret that the adoption of each resolution has, in practical terms, amounted to no more than an empty promise,” she added, stressing that Mr. Al-Bashir is not only a fugitive from justice who continues to travel across international borders, but he also harbours other fugitives and refuses to facilitate their surrender to the ICC.
In 2005, the Council asked the Hague-based Court to investigate war crimes in Darfur. ICC judges issued arrest warrants in 2009 for Mr. Al-Bashir and other top officials for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in the western Darfur region, where up to 300,000 people may have died and over 2 million been displaced since civil war erupted in 2003 between the Government and rebels.
“If I may be so bold, this Council must do more to demonstrate its commitment to Darfur,” Ms. Bensouda stressed. “It must confidently play its part in facilitating the arrest of suspects against whom the Court has issued warrants of arrest. It must act concretely on the Court's non-compliance communications.”
Ms. Bensouda, who has pleaded for Council action in her presentations before it over the past three years, noted that year after year, the victims’ hopes for justice and a durable peace have been dashed.
“Instead, the people of Darfur have continued to endure desolation, alleged gross violations of human rights, indiscriminate killings, mass rape and sexual abuse, while the individuals against whom ICC arrest warrants have been issued, and who may be implicated in these crimes, continue to evade justice,” she declared.
“Countless victims have been demoralized. After all, who can blame them when attaining justice appears so remote; not the least because of the absence of adequate follow-up and support from the Council. Their frustration and resignation in the face of inaction must weigh heavily on our collective conscience,” she said, urging the Council to take appropriate measures.
“Terrible crimes allegedly continue to be perpetrated in Darfur,” she concluded. “Only strong and committed action by the Council and States will stop the commission of grave crimes in Darfur and ensure that the perpetrators of past crimes are held accountable.”