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World confronts an ‘ugly and inescapable truth’ in Darfur, says ICC Prosecutor

Karim Khan (on screen), Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), briefs members UN Security Council on the Sudan and South Sudan.
UN Photo/Manuel Elías
Karim Khan (on screen), Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), briefs members UN Security Council on the Sudan and South Sudan.

World confronts an ‘ugly and inescapable truth’ in Darfur, says ICC Prosecutor

Peace and Security

The international community’s failure to execute warrants issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) and subsequent lack of accountability are fuelling the violence stemming from the war between rival militaries in Sudan, the ICC Prosecutor told the UN Security Council on Monday.

Prosecutor Karim Khan emphasized the “ugly and inescapable truth” that failure to act now is not only a damning verdict on the present, but will subject future generations to a similar fate.

It cannot be a case of ‘play, rewind, and repeat’,” he warned.

A clear assessment by his office indicated the presence of “grounds to believe” that Rome Statute crimes – genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity – are being committed by both the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) along with affiliated groups.

“We need to do more,” he stressed, urging Sudan to comply in good faith with Security Council resolutions, cooperate with and provide requested information to his office and allow investigators in the country.

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Referral to the ICC

In March 2005, the Security Council referred the situation in Darfur to the ICC Prosecutor for investigations into allegations of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. 

During that time, the region was engulfed in a brutal war involving the military-led government, the Janjaweed militia and rebel groups, resulting in the loss of hundreds of thousands of civilian lives and the displacement of millions more from their homes in a campaign marked by ethnic cleansing against non-Arabs. 

In July last year, Mr. Khan announced an investigation into fresh allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur against the backdrop of the ongoing war between SAF and RSF forces and their affiliated groups.

Situation ‘dire by any metric’

Speaking to ambassadors via video link from N'Djamena, the capital of Chad, Mr. Khan described the situation as “dire by any metric”.

Since the conflict’s onset in April 2023, over 7.1 million Sudanese civilians have been displaced, with 1.5 million forced to seek refuge in neighbouring countries. 

Chad, in particular, hosts more than 540,000 Sudanese refugees, a number expected to rise to 910,000 by the end of 2024.

“One in three of the population in the affected parts of Chad are refugees; they are arriving at a rate faster than Chad, faster than the United Nations can respond,” Mr. Khan said, adding that many of those seeking safety show signs of serious injury and trauma.

Refugees themselves have provided chilling testimony describing sexual violence against Darfuri women and girls, brutal killings and racially motivated crimes.

Rule of law collapsing

Mr. Khan warned the Council that the crisis in Darfur was deepening, with the war impacting whole swathes of the continent, from Libya on the Mediterranean to sub-Saharan Africa and from Sudan’s Red Sea coast to the Atlantic. 

We see a number of areas where conflicts seem to be triumphing against rule of law and deafening out the voices of the most vulnerable people,” he said.

Stressing that judicial orders and court judgements alone cannot solve the problem, the ICC Prosecutor urged the international community to devise innovative solutions to address the “catastrophe” in Darfur and prevent the violence from spreading further.

Meeting expectations

Mr. Khan urged Council members not to lose sight of the individual human stories behind the statistics of those affected by brutal crimes and war.

“These are individuals whose lives have been torn apart, each of whom has a story of woe and of suffering,” he said, emphasizing the collective responsibility of the Security Council, United Nations, Member States, regional organizations and the ICC “to live up to our promises that we have repeatedly made”.