|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference by International Criminal Court PrOSECUTOR
An arrest warrant had been issued against Sudan’s Defence Minister Abdel Raheem Mohamed Hussein for his alleged commission of atrocities in the country’s Darfur region, Louis Moreno Ocampo, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, told reporters today at a Headquarters press briefing.
“ Darfur is still a crime scene. And we are not stopping the crimes,” he said in response to questions.
The charges against Mr. Hussein cover 20 counts of crimes against humanity and 21 counts of war crimes, Mr. Ocampo said, adding that the warrant would be the last issued during his nine-year tenure, which ends this year. Mr. Hussein was the third senior official sought by the Court for alleged crimes in Darfur, joining Ahmed Haroun, Former Minister of State for the Interior, and Ali Kushayb, alleged leader of the Militia/Janjaweed.
Mr. Ocampo said that in 2003-2004, while serving as Minister for the Interior, Mr. Hussein had delegated responsibility to Mr. Haroun, who had coordinated massive attacks against villages in Darfur, and recruited Janjaweed, which, along with other ground forces, had killed and raped inhabitants.
In addition, the Prosecutor’s Office had presented the case of President Omer al-Bashir, who had supervised those attacks, and further, was responsible for the various forms of genocide that had occurred in the camps, including through direct killings, “unabated” rapes, and deplorable camp conditions that had allowed people to be exterminated. While some reports, including in the New York Times, had presented a more optimistic view of camp conditions, Mr. Ocampo said: “We’d like to check that,” underlining that the camps as were still at “genocide level”.
Mr. Ocampo added that the Court was not investigating crimes in the South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Abyei areas, as it had no jurisdiction in the south. But, the fact that the same people non-governmental groups were denouncing for crimes in the south were those who had managed to commit crimes in Darfur showed the cost of impunity. “Impunity is not just a legal problem,” he said. “Impunity [means] that there are new victims in different places.”
Asked about how appropriate it had been for Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and the African Union to Darfur, Ibrahim Gambari, to have posed with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for a photo at a wedding, Mr. Ocampo said the United Nations had a clear policy that contact should only be with those people who were essential to the Organization’s mission. It was up to the United Nations to define that behaviour. For a victim from Darfur, whose family had been killed and daughter had been raped, “you would feel probably bad”, he said. “We have to do more”.
As a Prosecutor, he had investigated crimes, collected evidence and clarified responsibilities, he continued. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia had indicted 161 persons; after 18 years, no one was at large. All of them had been arrested. It was only a matter of time before Mr. al-Bashir and Mr. Hussein faced justice. The problem was over how many would die in the interim. That was why the question was important.
As for lessons learned, and whether Mr. al-Bashir should have been indicted as early as he was, Mr. Ocampo said that in 2006, people had accused him of being slow. Among the lessons learned was that the facts should be clear. No Court investigation had affected the peace process in Darfur. On the contrary, the peace process had been triggered by the Court cases. The first negotiations in Darfur had started two months after the Haroun case had been presented. They were stalled in June 2008, and, one month later in July, when the Court presented the al-Bashir case, new negotiations were launched. The problem was that the crimes had not stopped.
As to whether too much attention had centred on African nations, Mr. Ocampo said that in the 1990s, the world had ignored African victims. In this building, the world ignored the Rwandan genocide. No one had known about the Congo wars. “I will not commit the same mistake,” he said. “I will prosecute those who commit the crimes in Africa. Being African is not alibi for killing Africans.” He had no jurisdiction in Burma, Nepal or Sri Lanka. When Al-Qaida bombed trains in Spain, he had not intervened. “I’m doing the exact cases I promised to do: the most serious crimes when there were no investigations,” he said.
Asked how he decided whether to issue a warrant under seal, he said that in each case, the better strategy was defined. Former South African President Thabo Mbeki had proposed other mechanisms to complement that approach. The Court decided which cases to be prosecuted and defined the crimes. After that, it would be up to the Security Council to define.
As for the transition with his successor, Mr. Ocampo said Fatou Bensouda was planning her tenure and holding discussions with the Office.
Pressed to discuss the crimes that continued in Darfur, Mr. Ocampo said that the problem was that, since the Court presented the warrant, Mr. al-Bashir had expelled humanitarian assistance and restricted access. Women preferred not to denounce rape. There was no place to do denounce such acts, he said, no place to get treatment, and further, when women tried to speak out, they were raped again. In the camps, the United Nations was mandated to avoid open conflict and provide humanitarian assistance. The Court investigated crimes and its approach was different. It managed information differently.
Finally, asked how he felt leaving his position after nine years on the job, Mr. Ocampo said that next week would mark the first decision handed down by the first permanent International Criminal Court. That would be a triumph of civilization. “These crimes are not just one country; these crimes are against humanity,” he said. The Lubanga case [the first conducted by the Court since its 2002 founding] was a huge achievement showing that civilization was evolving in the right direction.
He added that the Court was reviewing the report by the International Commission of Inquiry on Libya and was planning to send a team to Libya in April to check on national plans. In May, he would brief the Security Council on the strategy to address Libya.
* *** *For information media • not an official record