|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
5589th Meeting (PM)
Investigation provides evidence of war crimes in Darfur, International
Criminal Court prosecutor tells Security Council
The lead Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court, which is currently completing its investigation into those who bear the greatest responsibility for the worst crimes in Darfur, Sudan, informed the Security Council today that the evidence provided “reasonable grounds to believe” that the individuals had committed crimes against humanity, such as murder, wilful killings and rape; and war crimes, such as torture and intentional attacks against civilians.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo, briefing the Council on latest developments in that investigation and laying out next steps, said that, by referring the situation in Darfur to the “Court of last resort”, the Council had reaffirmed that peace and security required justice, not only for past, but also for current crimes that were protracting the suffering of millions and threatening stability beyond Darfur’s borders. As he moved towards completing the investigation and presenting evidence, it sent a signal to those who were considering committing further crime that they could not do so with impunity. The strength of that signal depended on the cooperation of both the Council and the Sudanese Government.
Noting that his Office could not investigate the “hundreds of alleged criminal incidents” and prosecute all of the alleged perpetrators of crimes in Darfur, he said he had focused on the most serious incidents and the individuals with the greatest responsibility for those incidents. Following an analysis of the “universe of crimes” alleged to have been committed in Darfur in 2003 and 2004, his Office had collected evidence from a wide range of sources, thoroughly investigating incriminating and exonerating facts in an equal, independent and impartial manner.
Sharing the Council’s grave concerns about the on-going violence in Darfur and reports of a spillover to neighbouring countries, he said he was closely following the situation in Chad and the Central African Republic, as well as possible links to the situation in Darfur. The perpetrators of those crimes were standing in the way of progress towards peace and security in Darfur, as well as in neighbouring States. Attacks on humanitarian and peacekeeping personnel were another prominent feature of the current situation in Darfur.
The admissibility assessment, he added, was not a judgement on the Sudanese justice system as whole, but an assessment as to whether or not its Government had undertaken genuine proceedings in relation to the cases selected by his Office for prosecution. Indications did not appear to render the current case inadmissible. The participation of the Sudanese Government in the process was important for ensuring an impartial investigation and a balanced view of the events in Darfur.
By making advances in the investigation he was fulfilling his responsibilities under the Rome Statue and Council resolution 1593 (2005), he said. Since that resolution’s adoption, the violence and suffering in Darfur had continued. The Council had recognized that justice for the victims would send an important warning -– beyond Darfur’s border -– to those individuals who might otherwise resort to violence and the commission of crimes to achieve their aims.
The meeting began at 3:27 p.m. and adjourned at 3:55 p.m.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, briefing the Council on his activities since June, said his Office was currently completing an investigation and the collection of sufficient evidence to identify those who bore the greatest responsibility for some of the worst crimes in Darfur. The evidence provided reasonable grounds to believe that the individuals identified had committed crimes against humanity and war crimes, including the crimes of persecution, torture, murder and rape, during a period in which the gravest crimes had occurred in Darfur.
Throughout the process, he had given careful attention to the issue of admissibility, he said. In November, he had requested an update from the Sudanese Government regarding their national proceedings. He had received a formal response from the Government, which reported that 14 individuals had been arrested for violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses. As those indications did not appear to render the current case inadmissible, he was, therefore, planning to finalize the submission for the Judges by February 2007. In its response, the Government noted its “previous cooperation concerning the investigation of crimes against humanity in Darfur” and reaffirmed its commitment to the principle of continuing cooperation with the International Criminal Court. He would, therefore, request their cooperation to facilitate a visit by representatives from his Office in January to the Sudan to gather information on developments.
By making those advances, he was fulfilling his responsibilities under the Rome Statute, as well as the task set by the Council in its resolution 1593, he explained. Since the resolution’s adoption, violence in Darfur had continued and the suffering of the people of Darfur, including the millions of displaced persons, had become worse. There were also worrying reports of a spillover of violence into Chad and the Central African Republic. The Council had recognized that justice for the victims would contribute to enhancing security and would send an important warning -– beyond Darfur’s borders –- to the individuals who might otherwise resort to violence and crime to achieve their aims.
Noting that his Office could not investigate all of the hundreds of alleged criminal incidents and prosecute all the alleged perpetrators of the crimes in Darfur, he said he had focused on the most serious incidents and the individuals with the greatest responsibility for those incidents. The collection of evidence had been focused on a series of incidents that had occurred in 2003 and 2004, during a period and in a location where the highest numbers of crimes had been recorded. The Office had collected evidence from a wide range of sources, including statements from victims, Sudanese officials and thousands of documents collected by the International Commission of Inquiry and information provided by the National Commission of Inquiry.
The Sudanese Government had participated in the process, he added, recalling that, in May 2006, the Sudanese authorities had provided a written report responding to questions submitted by his Office. That report outlined the various phases of the conflict from the Government’s perspective and offered information relating to the activities of the military and security structures operating in Darfur, as well as the other parties to the conflict, and the legal system governing the conduct of military operations. In August 2006, representatives of his Office had again travelled to the Sudan and had interviewed two high-ranking civilian and military officials.
Reaching the victims had at all times been a priority for his Office, he continued. Since the start of his investigation, the Darfur team had conducted more than 70 missions to 17 countries screening hundreds of potential witnesses and taking more than 100 formal witness statements, many of which were with victims. Based on a careful evaluation of the evidence, his Office had identified some of the gravest criminal incidents and some of the individuals who could be considered to bear the greatest responsibility. The evidence proved that numerous crimes within the Court’s jurisdiction had been committed, including crimes against humanity, such as persecution, murder, wilful killing, rape and other forms of sexual violence and cruel treatment; and war crimes, such as intentionally killing civilians, inhumane acts, cruel treatment and pillaging.
He noted that, during each of the four missions to the Sudan, his Office had met with judicial and legal officers, representatives of the Darfur Special Courts, and officials from the Ministry of Justice and other relevant Government departments. In June, his Office had possessed information indicating that the Special Courts had tried six cases involving less than 30 suspects, including 18 low-ranking military officers. The Judicial Investigation Committee had not completed any investigations or prosecutions.
The admissibility assessment was not a judgement on the Sudanese justice system as a whole, but an assessment as to whether the Sudanese Government had undertaken genuine proceedings in relation to the case selected by his Office for prosecution, he said. In that context, a case involved the specific incidents in which crimes had been committed by identified perpetrators. His Office had assessed whether or not the Sudanese authorities were conducting -- or had conducted -- genuine national proceedings in relation to the same incidents and individuals identified in the current case. Since submitting his report, the Government had written to formally indicate that there were developments in the work of the Judicial Investigation Commission, including the arrest of 14 individuals suspected of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses.
As those indications did not appear to render the current case inadmissible, he planned to finalize the submission to the Judges by February 2007 and enhance the necessary security measures, he said. He would request the Government’s cooperation in facilitating a visit by members of his Office to the Sudan in January to gather further information on those developments. He shared the grave concerns expressed by the Secretary-General and the Council regarding the ongoing violence in Darfur, as well as the reports of a spillover of violence into Chad and the Central African Republic. The perpetrators of those crimes were standing in the way of progress towards peace and security in Darfur, as well as in neighbouring States.
Despite the signing of the Darfur Peace Agreement by some of the parties to the conflict, almost daily allegations of serious crimes continued, some of which might fall within the Court’s jurisdiction, he said. Violent clashes between factions inside and between the movements had led to significant numbers of civilian deaths. There were also disturbing reports of a repetition of similar patterns associated with earlier crimes, including reports of attacks on civilian locations by armed militias, supported by elements of the Sudanese security forces. Incidents of rape and sexual assaults continued to be reported at very high levels.
Attacks on humanitarian personnel and peacekeepers were another prominent feature of the current situation in Darfur, he said. During July to September alone, there had been reports of the hijacking of 21 humanitarian vehicles and the ambushing and looting of more than 31 convoys, leading to the deaths of six humanitarian workers and two military observers. Such attacks had caused some organizations to withdraw from Darfur, further consolidating the plight and endangering the lives of the millions of displaced persons. Attacks on humanitarian personnel were prohibited under international humanitarian law and constituted a war crime within the Court’s jurisdiction.
The persistent lack of security in Darfur was also reported to have spilled over into Chad and the Central African Republic, leading to allegations of crimes having been committed on the territory of those States. On 1 November, Chad’s Government had acceded to the Rome Statue, with the Statute entering into force on 1 January 2007. The Central African Republic was also a party to the International Criminal Court. The Office was, therefore, closely following the situation in Chad and the Central African Republic, as well as possible links to the situation in Darfur.
The African Union’s cooperation remained important to the progress of current and future investigations, he continued. Following his briefing to the Council in June, he had travelled to Addis Ababa to brief the African Union Peace and Security Council on the Court’s activities, including in relation to Darfur. He intended to hold further briefings with the African Union, as well as the Arab League in 2007. There had also been progress in relation to the requests for assistance transmitted by his Office in February 2006 to the African Union Mission in the Sudan (AMIS).
The cooperation of the Sudanese Government in the process was important to ensure an impartial investigation and as balanced a view of the events in Darfur as possible, he said. Various requests for assistance had been made in 2005 and 2006 to the Sudanese Government. A detailed request had been submitted to the Sudanese authorities in June 2006, including a request for specified documentation and access to civilian and military officials for the purposes of interviews. There were a number of outstanding requests for documents and interviews which remained an important feature of the fact-finding process. He would continue to seek that information from the Government and would keep the Council informed in that regard.
By its referral of the situation in Darfur to the Court, the Council had reaffirmed that peace and security required justice, he concluded. That related not only to past crimes, but also to the current crimes that were protracting the suffering of the millions of the most vulnerable, including those in the camps for the displaced, and threatening stability beyond Darfur’s borders. As his Office moved towards the completion of the investigation and the presentation of evidence in relation to the first case, it sent a signal to those who were considering committing further crimes that they could not do so with impunity. The strength and impact of that signal depended on the support and cooperation in the Council, Sudan’s Government and other relevant states.
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