We Have Failed Darfur’s Victims, International Criminal Court Prosecutor Tells Security Council, Noting Continuing ‘Total Impunity’
We Have Failed Darfur’s Victims, International Criminal Court Prosecutor Tells Security Council, Noting Continuing ‘Total Impunity’
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
7199th Meeting (AM)
We Have Failed Darfur’s Victims, International Criminal Court Prosecutor
Tells Security Council, Noting Continuing ‘Total Impunity’
Systematic and wide-spread crimes continued to be committed with total impunity in Darfur nearly 10 years since the situation there was referred to the International Criminal Court, Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told the Security Council today.
Darfur suspects remained at large and no meaningful steps had been taken to apprehend them and bring them to justice, Ms. Bensouda lamented. What amount of suffering must Darfur's victims endure for this Council to act decisively on the situation in Darfur, she questioned. The Court remained of the view that enforcing arrest warrants in Darfur was a key element for peace, stability and for ending the suffering of Darfur’s victims.
Ms. Bensouda went on to express deep concern over the large number of people who continued to be displaced, while deploring the increasing constraints placed on humanitarian aid workers. The deliberate obstruction of humanitarian aid must end and the use of violence against unarmed civilians must be addressed.
The Court also took note of Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir's travels during the reporting period, including visits to Rome Statute States parties, which Ms. Bensouda said were obligated to cooperate with the International Criminal Court in arresting and surrendering those subject to arrest warrants.
Noting that President Al-Bashir had travelled internationally on at least six occasions, the representative of the United States pointed out that the President had not always been welcomed, with demonstrations in several countries calling for his arrest. The Council should take a cue from those groups; not only as a moral obligation, but as a crucial step for lasting peace.
The ability of African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) to protect civilians had been called to task and allegations that the mission had self-censored and minimized attacks and crimes were serious, said the representative of France. However, he said, "we can't blame the mission for the whole failure here". UNAMID could not impose peace, and if the Council was intent on implementing the peace agreement, it needed to combat impunity.
Also speaking were representatives of the Republic of Korea, China, Luxembourg, Argentina, Nigeria, Chile, Rwanda, Lithuania, Australia, United Kingdom, Chad, Jordan and the Russian Federation.
The meeting started at 10:09 a.m. and ended at 11:39 a.m.
FATOU BENSOUDA, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, said that nearly 10 years since the much lauded Council's referral of the situation in Darfur to the International Criminal Court, systematic and widespread crimes continued to be committed with total impunity in that region. "It is indeed an understatement to say that we have failed the Darfur victims who continue to bear the brunt of these crimes," she said. "Time has now come for us to take a critical look at the impact of all our efforts vis-à-vis Darfur," she continued.
The reality is that the International Criminal Court's judicial process could not take place without arrests, she said. Darfur suspects remained at large and no meaningful steps had been taken to apprehend them and bring them to justice. What amount of suffering should Darfur's victims endure for this Council to act decisively on the situation in Darfur, she questioned. The Court remained of the firm view that enforcing arrest warrants in Darfur was a key element for peace, stability and for ending the suffering of Darfur’s victims. It was a sad reality that action from the Council had not been forthcoming when it mattered most for those victims. That reflected badly, not only on the international criminal justice system, but also undermined the credibility of the Council as an instrument of international peace and security.
She stated that recent allegations that reporting from the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) had been manipulated, with the intention of covering up crimes against civilians and peacekeepers, including those committed by the Government of Sudan, should be a matter of concern. The allegations called for a thorough, independent and public enquiry. The implementation of the non-essential contact policy also deserved closer scrutiny within the United Nations system. The Court had also taken note of President Omer al-Bashir's travels during the reporting period, including his visits to Rome Statute State parties, which were obligated to arrest and surrender those subject to arrest warrants.
She expressed concern over the large number of people who continued to be displaced and deplored the increasing constraints placed on humanitarian aid workers. The deliberate obstruction of humanitarian aid must end. Equally concerning was the ongoing pattern of aerial bombardments and armed attacks on civilian populations by the militia, Janjaweed. Crimes against civilians were allegedly committed from the end of February onwards and in 12 of the 17 reported attacks, villages had been set ablaze. The reporting period also witnessed an increased pattern of gang rapes of women and girls. Attacks on students, civil society and on local leaders were particularly disturbing. The use of violence against unarmed civilians must be addressed.
The Government, as the territorial States, had the primary responsibility and was fully able to implement arrest warrants, consistent with its sovereign authority, she said. It had consistently failed to do so, while also failing to provide any meaningful measure of justice at the national level. There needed to be a shift in the approach of the Council to arresting Darfur suspects. Concerted efforts to promote cooperation with the Council may help to fill the gap. She called on the Council and all States to find creative ways to support those amongst them that may be most vulnerable to planned visits by the Sudanese President or other individuals wanted under International Criminal Court arrest warrants.
PAIK JI-AH ( Republic of Korea) said that efforts to improve the situation in Sudan had not lived up to expectations, having been tarnished by a lack of cooperation by the Government of Sudan and other States which had international obligations to cooperate with the International Criminal Court. The Court's efforts within the Council had been defeated because of the Council's failing to achieve unity on how to proceed. Reminding members that the Council had referred the situation to the Court, she stressed that follow-up was not only fair, but necessary. Communication gaps between the two bodies needed to be closed. The culture of impunity in Sudan continued to prevail and security was deteriorating, along with increased human suffering. That vicious cycle must be stopped, and robust monitoring must be implemented. Furthermore, international cooperation was crucial in the prosecution of sexual violence crimes which should be given priority.
CAI WEIMING ( China) noted that Darfur had recently been calm, with "ups and downs" and that the Government was stepping up dialogue, implementing the peace agreements and taking steps in humanitarian activities, among other actions, towards reconciliation. He voiced concern about attacks against civilians and United Nations personnel, and called on "all armed rebel groups" to stop and take part in the political process, which was crucial to establishing security and peace. China's position had not changed in regards to the International Criminal Court and Darfur.
SYLVIE LUCAS ( Luxembourg) said it was incumbent upon the Government of Sudan to comply with resolution 1593 (2005) and carry out arrest warrants. The Government had failed to implement measures to combat impunity nationally. Despite 55 resolutions passed since 2004 on the situation in Sudan, virtually none of the requests or obligations in those resolutions had been implemented. She noted with deep concern that Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir continued to visit countries in the region, including those States Parties to the Rome Statute. Atrocities committed against civilians, including sexual violence against women and crimes against children, were deeply concerning. Serious threats continued to loom large on the safety and security of humanitarian workers, and attacks against those individuals continued, although none of those attacks had resulted in a single condemnation. She urged United Nations Member States and all regional and subregional organizations to fully comply with the International Criminal Court.
FERNANDA MILLICAY ( Argentina) lamented the ongoing human rights violations in Darfur, as well as the 2 million internally displaced persons currently in Sudan. The Government of Sudan was compelled to cooperate with the Court and offer assistance in the implementation of arrest warrants issued by it. Argentina regretted that some States had set aside their obligations to cooperate with the Court and urged all regional and subregional organizations to cooperate with the Court to prevent impunity. Argentina maintained that it was necessary that the Secretary-General enforce a strict implementation of the guidelines regarding non-essential contact with individuals facing arrest warrants from the Court. Contact with United Nations staff members could affect not only the Court, but also undermine the credibility of the Organization.
KAYODE LARO ( Nigeria), noting the cover-up of crimes against United Nations peacekeepers and civilians, urged the Secretary-General to look into those allegations. The United Nations reports on the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) must convey the truth on the ground; it was crucial to maintaining the integrity of the reporting of the Organization and that of the United Nations itself. The increasing violence in Darfur was of great concern. Since the beginning of the year, 200,000 people had been displaced, which illustrated the magnitude of the problem. It was deplorable that there had been restrictions on humanitarian actors, which had made it difficult for accessing those in need. Emphasizing that the dangers to peacekeepers were "real" and that humanitarian workers were taking great risks to their own safety, he said he looked forward to seeing the results of the Court's monitoring on Darfur.
EDUARDO GÁLVEZ ( Chile) said the Council had the primary responsibility to follow up on the activities of the Court and the Prosecutor, which should not end with a mere referral, or by receiving reports or having debates. The Council should maintain dialogue and respond to the Court. The silence translated into a lack of responsibility. Effective follow-up was necessary to bring efficiency to the Council's work. Further, there must be due cooperation from States, whether a member of the Statutes or under Chapter VII. He reiterated his call to all States to cooperated with the Court and comply with its rulings. The humanitarian situation was even more worrisome than previous reports and the number of internally displaced persons was higher than past years. The Council had repeated opportunities to address the situation via resolutions 2138 (2014) and 2148 (2014) and he called for compliance to those texts. The Court should gather evidence on new crimes in Darfur, and allegations against UNAMID should be investigated by the Secretary-General.
OLIVIER NDUHUNGIREHE ( Rwanda) noted that the African Union had stressed that the search for justice should be done in a way that did not jeopardize efforts to establish lasting peace. He was convinced that concerted cooperation between the United Nations, African Union and the Government of Sudan was the best way forward. Rwanda was concerned about ongoing violence and the use of civilians as human shields. Repeated attacks against peacekeepers, including the recent incident in May in which one Rwandan peacekeeper was killed and four others injured, were of serious concern. Rwanda was also concerned about reports that information coming from UNAMID was manipulated with a view towards hiding crimes committed against civilians and peacekeepers. He emphasized that the Government of Sudan had a responsibility to protect its civilians, while there must be concrete steps taken to understand the root causes of the violence. There could not be a military solution to the conflict. All warring parties must understand that only peaceful, political dialogue could create a lasting solution.
DAINIUS BAUBLYS ( Lithuania) noted that, over the last six months, the situation in Darfur had deteriorated, as civilians were affected by indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks. Threats remained against humanitarian aid workers and peacekeepers, hindering the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Lithuania condemned the persistence of sexual and gender-based violence and called for the strongest possible measures to be taken against perpetrators. The Government of Sudan should do more to end attacks against civilians, fight impunity, ensure accountability and guarantee justice for victims. Prevailing impunity went hand in hand with continued violence and insecurity. Justice must be made the cornerstone of a lasting and sustainable peace agreement in Darfur. He called on the Government to meet its obligations and cooperate with the Court.
ALEXIS LAMEK ( France) said that the Council needed to think about how their activities impacted civilians in Darfur, observing that the 15-nation body had been unable to protect those people from acts of violence, as described in the Prosecutor's report. Sudan’s population had been subject to "unheard of violence". The crimes were the same, even if the name of the armed group was different, he said, in regards to crimes alleged by the Rapid Support Forces. The ability of UNAMID to protect civilians had been called to task and the allegations that the mission had self-censored and minimized attacks and crimes were serious and the Secretary-General should take action. However, he said, "we can't blame the mission for the whole failure here". UNAMID could not impose peace, and if the Council was intent on implementing the peace agreement, then it needed to combat impunity. Furthermore, actions could not be limited to calling upon the mission, United Nations agencies and other bodies to continue training personnel on how to have victims of sexual violence fill out forms. There was a need to arrest perpetrators. Acknowledging division within the Council on arresting Sudanese President Al-Bashir, he recalled resolution 1593 (2005), noting the impact of the President's visits to other States only encouraged those forces to continue their violent practices. It was critical the Council saw the negative impact on its inability to implement that resolution. "This is not about supporting the Court," he said, but about peace and security in the whole region.
PHILIPPA KING (Australia), welcoming the ongoing preparations for Abdullah Banda's trial, called on Sudanese authorities to cooperate with the Court, particularly in the arrest and surrender of President Al-Bashir, Abdel Muhammed Hussein, Ahmad Harun and Ali Kushayb, as obligated under resolution 1593 (2005). She voiced disappointment that States parties to the Rome Statute continued to invite the President to their countries, failing to arrest and surrender him. The report also indicated a "pervasive culture of impunity" and a systemic failure by the Sudanese Government to pursue accountability for attacks against humanitarian workers, UNAMID peacekeepers and civilians, including the reported gang-rape of a young girl. "There is no justification for further delay in this Council taking meaningful steps to support the [International Criminal Court’s] work in Darfur," she stressed.
PAUL MCKELL ( United Kingdom) said the lack of progress in Sudan was "extremely depressing", and called upon the Government of Sudan to meet its obligations in full. The catastrophic humanitarian situation in Darfur, including continued violence against civilians, was of concern. Civilians continued to pay the highest price, and reports of sexual and gender-based violence were appalling. He was concerned by allegations of aerial bombardments, while also noting with concern that rebel forces had been involved in attacks against civilians. All parties must stop such actions immediately. He noted with concern questions regarding the United Nations policy on non-essential contact and urged the Secretariat to fully comply with the policy. The Council must do more to follow up with referrals to the International Criminal Court, as the numerous instances of non-compliance reflected poorly on the Council.
GOMBO TCHOULI ( Chad) was concerned by the deterioration of the security situation in Darfur, due to the ongoing conflict between the Government and armed rebel groups. All violence, including the destruction of villages, robbery and abductions, must come to an end. Chad condemned all acts committed by armed groups, including militias, against civilians. There could not be a military solution — there must be a political settlement to ensure the restoration of peace in the region. The escalation of the conflict had resulted in a renewed deterioration of the humanitarian situation, with some 400,000 people having fled the violence in recent months. The Sudanese Government should pursue and prosecute perpetrators to end impunity. It was clear that the implementation of Council resolutions on the situation in Darfur had been met with difficulties. It was counterproductive to seek to address the situation in Darfur without also supporting the International Criminal Court's efforts. The situation in Darfur had an enormous impact on Chad; since 2003, nearly 300,000 Sudanese refugees had fled to areas that bordered Chad. A lasting peace in Darfur would also help bring security and stability to Chad.
PETER LORD ( United States) said that because the Government of Sudan had failed to comply with resolution 1593 (2005), civilians continued to suffer. The consequences of impunity were clear, with the Government's aerial bombardment against civilians and the Rapid Response Forces continuing to rape and kill. Those actions had prevented humanitarian workers from accessing those in need. The violence was also spreading over Blue Nile State and the region, resulting in more internally displaced persons. Furthermore, Sudan had not honoured the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur. The Government could not be indifferent to the lives of its people and other States must also comply with the Court's rulings. Noting that President Al-Bashir had travelled internationally on at least six occasions, he pointed out that the President had not always been welcomed, with demonstrations in several countries calling for his arrest. The Council should take a cue from those groups and follow-up on resolution 1593 (2005). It was not just a moral obligation, but crucial to a lasting peace.
EIHAB OMAISH ( Jordan) underscored that the Court required full cooperation to fulfil its mandate. The Council had referred Sudan to the Court, as he noted the report's details of the persistence of violations. He reiterated that full cooperation and coordination with the Prosecutor be engaged and that such efforts be shown by all States in that regard. He supported the report and the briefing's recommendations, emphasizing it was necessary to spare no efforts into looking into allegations the mission's reports might have been manipulated.
EVGENY ZAGAYNOV ( Russian Federation) said he was concerned by the worsening security situation in Darfur. He noted efforts by the Government of Sudan to bring together warring parties and prevent inter-communal violence. Improving the situation in Darfur was dependent on the implementation of the results of the Doha Conference, including the allocation of $1 billion for the development needs of Sudan. Of key importance was the pursuit of a political settlement through national dialogue. Darfur rebels should join the peace process without preconditions. The Russian Federation supported the International Criminal Court's investigation into events in Darfur and called on the Court to objectively investigate the actions of all sides regarding recent violence. The balance between the interests of reconciliation and justice was a delicate one. The situation in Darfur demonstrated how important support from States was for the successful functioning of the Court. However, one must take into account that, in each specific situation, there could be varying degrees of compliance. His country had concerns regarding the implementation of some aspects of the Rome Statue, including provisions for acting heads of State, as previously expressed by the African Union.
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