Amid Growing Brutality in Darfur, International Criminal Court Prosecutor Urges Security Council to Rethink Tactics for Arresting War Crime Suspects

SC/11696
12 December 2014
7337th Meeting (AM)

Amid Growing Brutality in Darfur, International Criminal Court Prosecutor Urges Security Council to Rethink Tactics for Arresting War Crime Suspects

As the situation in Darfur continued to deteriorate, crimes were being committed there with greater brutality, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court told the Security Council this morning in her semi-annual briefing, urging the 15-member body to define a new approach to addressing the issues arising from the conflict.

Women and girls continued to bear the brunt of sustained attacks on innocent civilians, Fatou Bensouda said.  “Victims of rape are asking themselves how many more women should be brutally attacked for this Council to appreciate the magnitude of their plight.”

None of the individuals indicted by the Court to answer charges of the commission of crimes in Darfur had been brought to justice, and some continued to be implicated in atrocities against innocent civilians.  In such a situation, she said, all she could do before the Council was repeat the same thing over and over again.

In the almost 10 years that her Office had been reporting to the Council, there had never been a strategic recommendation provided, she said, nor had there been any discussion resulting in concrete solutions for the problems faced in the Darfur situation.  The stalemate could only embolden perpetrators to continue their brutality.

The recent allegations of rape of 200 women and girls in Thabit should shock the Council into action, she said.  “It is unacceptable that investigations of such sensitive and serious crimes were conducted in a situation in which perpetrators had effective control over their victims in their homes and in their villages, and where investigators can offer no protection to victims after they have left the scene of the crime,” she said.

The Government of Sudan had the primary responsibility and was fully able to implement the Court’s warrants of arrest consistent with its sovereign authority, she said.  That Government had consistently failed to do that or provide any meaningful measure of justice at the national level.

“I remain open to constructively engage with the Council on the Darfur issue.  What is needed is a dramatic shift in this Council’s approach to arresting Darfur suspects,” she said.

After her briefing, Council members urged the Sudanese authorities to ensure full and unimpeded access to the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), investigators and humanitarian agencies to complete their mission, while also calling for stepped-up efforts towards achieving a political settlement.  Delegates also expressed alarm over the alleged mass rape in Thabit, with Chad’s representative, speaking in his national capacity, calling for an independent and impartial investigation to clarify the matter.

The representative of Nigeria commended the Prosecutor’s Office for monitoring trends in Sudan and unequivocally condemned any acts that targeted civilians, aid workers and peacekeepers, adding that there could be no military solution to the conflict in Darfur.

The United Kingdom’s representative called on the Sudanese Government to enforce all the arrest warrants issued by the Court.  Where States failed to comply with their obligations, the Council must respond and it was regrettable that it had not yet done so.

Since February 2009, African Heads of State and Government had consistently requested that the Court’s proceedings against President al‑Bashir be withdrawn in the interest of finding a peaceful solution, the representative of Rwanda said.  There must be a balance between peace and justice to achieve lasting peace.

Justice could not bring back the lives lost, the representative of the United States said, but it served as a foundation for healing.  The Sudanese people had waited far too long to see the crimes against them punished.

Also speaking today were representatives of Australia, Russian Federation, Jordan, Luxembourg, China, Argentina, Lithuania, Republic of Korea, Chile and France.

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 11:40 a.m.

Briefing

FATOU BENSOUDA, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, said none of the individuals indicted by the International Criminal Court to answer charges of the commission of crimes in Darfur had been brought to justice, and some continued to be implicated in atrocities committed against innocent civilians.  It was becoming increasingly difficult for her to appear before the Council and purport to be updating it when all she was doing was repeating the same thing over and over again.  Not only did the situation in Darfur continue to deteriorate, the brutality with which crimes were committed had become more pronounced.  Women and girls continued to bear the brunt of sustained attacks on innocent civilians.  “Victims of rape are asking themselves how many more women should be brutally attacked for this Council to appreciate the magnitude of their plight.”

In the almost 10 years that her Office had been reporting to the Council, there had never been a strategic recommendation provided, she said, nor had there been any discussion resulting in concrete solutions for the problems faced in the Darfur situation.  The stalemate could only embolden perpetrators to continue their brutality.  The international community needed to define a new approach, which required strategic thinking and changes from all sides, she said.  Unless there was such a change, there shall continue to be little or nothing to report for the foreseeable future.  “The question for the Council to answer is what meaningful purpose is my reporting intended to serve and whether that purpose is being achieved,” she said.

The recent allegations of rape of 200 women and girls in Thabit should shock the Council into action, she said.  The Council must demonstrate its strong condemnation of the Government of Sudan’s failure to facilitate access to Thabit and should demand unimpeded full investigations of those crimes without delay. 

“It is unacceptable that investigations of such sensitive and serious crimes were conducted in a situation in which perpetrators had effective control over their victims in their homes and in their villages, and where investigators can offer no protection to victims after they have left the scene of the crime, she said.

She thanked the Secretary-General for taking immediate steps to investigate allegations of manipulation and underreporting by the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) and expressed hope the Council would take appropriate steps to address the issues identified in her Office’s report and implement its recommendations.  Her Office had taken note of Sudanese President Omar al‑Bashir’s travels during the reporting period, which were markedly fewer.  The question of Mr. al‑Bashir’s travels remained a matter before the Council as did his status as a fugitive from justice. 

Sharing the Council’s deep concern at the serious deterioration of the security situation in Darfur and its profoundly negative impact on civilians, in particular women and children, she said massive new displacements this year had compounded an already fragile situation.  Equally concerning was the ongoing patterns of aerial bombardments and armed attacks on civilian populations by militia/Janjaweed, particularly, the ongoing involvement of the newest iteration of the Janjaweed, the Rapid Support Forces, led by Mohamed Hamdan.  

The Government of Sudan had the primary responsibility and was fully able to implement the Court’s warrants of arrest consistent with its sovereign authority, she said.  That Government had consistently failed to do that or provide any meaningful measure of justice at the national level.  “I remain open to constructively engage with the Council on the Darfur issue.  What is needed is a dramatic shift in this Council's approach to arresting Darfur suspects,” she said, suggesting that concerted effort to promote cooperation with the Court may help to fill the gap.

Statements

MICHAEL BLISS (Australia) said the Council had previously expressed concern at reports of mass rape in Thabit and called on the Government of Sudan to investigate the allegations.  Taking into account the challenges associated with the investigations of crimes of sexual violence, it was essential to ensure that the Sudanese Government’s domestic criminal investigations met international standards.  Sudan must fully cooperate with UNAMID to enable thorough and independent investigations of those allegations, and meet its obligation under Council resolution 1593 (2005) to cooperate with the Court.  While it continued to be important that the Council provided strong support to political reconciliation efforts in Sudan, the ongoing violence demonstrated the challenges the process was facing.  Without justice, it would be difficult to bring an inclusive and lasting peace to Darfur.

KAYODE LARO (Nigeria) commended the Secretary-General for launching a review of the allegations concerning manipulation of UNAMID reporting and stated that UNAMID had issued a press release on 10 November, finding no evidence of a mass rape in Thabit.  Sudanese authorities must continue to cooperate with the Mission.  Nigeria also commended the Prosecutor’s Office for monitoring trends in Sudan and unequivocally condemned any acts that targeted civilians, aid workers and peacekeepers.  Millions had been displaced within the country and faced crisis levels of insecurity.  Nigeria urged all concerned to lift restrictions on humanitarian agencies.  There could be no military solution to the conflict in Darfur.

EVGENY T. ZAGAYNOV (Russian Federation) said that the main source of violence in Darfur was the intercommunal conflict and welcomed the Sudanese authorities’ efforts to appease the warring tribes.  The economic hardships that Sudan suffered from must be resolved through timely implementation of the Doha Document and lifting of the United States-imposed sanctions against Sudan.  Due to obstruction by insurgents, the November negotiations in Addis Ababa had failed and it was time for targeted Council resolutions against the hard-line rebel groups.  Both UNAMID and the Sudanese authorities had conducted investigations into the alleged mass rape.  Not a single victim or witness was found by either.  There had been demonstrations by locals angered by the scurrilous claims by Radio Dabanga that cast aspersion on the dignity of local women.  Such allegations were an example of the information war.  He urged the Court to carry out an objective assessment of events in Sudan.

MAHMOUD DAIFALLAH MAHMOUD HMOUD (Jordan) reiterated his country’s continued support for the Court and the principles for which it was founded.  The Rome Statute had provided for the mechanisms to end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious and achieve international criminal justice.  Darfur was the first case referred by the Council to the Court.  However, the relationship between the Council and the Court must not be limited to referrals of cases and public briefings.  The Council must give the Court more support to implement its mandate without interfering with its proceedings.  Jordan was deeply concerned about what the Prosecutor’s report said about continued serious crimes, aerial bombardments, attacks against civilians and sexual crimes.  The Court must continue collecting evidence against the new crimes.

HELEN MULVEIN (United Kingdom) said that her country regretted the lack of improvement in the situation in Darfur.  The ongoing aerial bombardments, sexual and gender-based violence against civilians, and the arbitrary arrest of opposition figures painted a deeply worrying picture.  The United Kingdom was also concerned that the latest round of talks had not reached a breakthrough.  All parties must resume talks at the earliest opportunity.  Condemning the attacks against UNAMID, she called on the Sudanese authorities to take steps to ensure safety of its personnel.  UNAMID must be able to investigate any allegations and it was vital that all findings should be shared transparently.  31 March 2015 would mark 10 years since the situation in Darfur was referred to the Court.  The Government of Sudan had “comprehensively and conspicuously” failed to meet its obligations to cooperate with the Court.  She called on the Government to enforce all the arrest warrants issued by the Court.  Where States failed to comply with their obligations, the Council must respond and it was regrettable that the Council had not yet done so.

SYLVIE LUCAS (Luxembourg) said 10 years after the Council had referred the Darfur case to the Court, the Sudanese Government had failed to extradite the individuals indicted for committing crimes there, which was unacceptable.  She expressed hope the Council would follow up on cases it had referred to the Court.  The situation in Darfur had deteriorated and required concerted international action.  Instead, crimes likely to fall under the Rome Statute continued to be perpetrated.  She encouraged the Court’s Prosecutor to continue to investigate the situation in the ground despite the difficulties posed by the non-cooperation by Sudanese authorities.  It was disturbing that UNAMID had not been allowed unimpeded access to Thabit to conduct comprehensive and impartial investigations of the allegations of rape.  The fact that the Council could refer cases to the Court made it an important actor in determining culpability.

CAI WEIMING (China) supported the Government of Sudan’s efforts to promote a political solution and welcomed recent initiatives in that regard.  He expressed hope that the parties concerned would show maturity and work strenuously towards a comprehensive solution.  Only by promoting an inclusive political process in good faith could a comprehensive and lasting solution be achieved.  China had taken note on the Thabit attacks and hoped UNAMID would strengthen cooperation with the Government of Sudan to find a settlement without exacerbating the situation.

EMMANUEL NIBISHAKA (Rwanda) said that since February 2009 African Heads of State and Government had consistently requested that the Court’s proceedings against President al‑Bashir be withdrawn in the interest of finding a peaceful solution.  The African States that had received the Sudanese President were acting in conformity with that joint stand.  The deterioration of the situation on the ground threatened innocent civilians, which was a source of concern.  The Sudanese Government needed to cooperate with UNAMID to investigate the attacks in Thabit and elsewhere.  The Government had the primary responsibility to protect the people.   There must be a balance between peace and justice to achieve lasting peace. Without the goodwill of the parties involved and support of the international community, that goal could not be attained.

MARÍA CRISTINA PERCEVAL (Argentina) said that she would not speak today about the proliferation of weapons or the women who were raped or the children who ate only in refugee camps twice a week.  Instead she would focus on the Prosecutor’s report.  “Argentina laments that human rights violations continue,” she said.  It was absolutely vital to remove obstacles to the work of UNAMID.  Given the proliferation of violence against women, it seemed that gender-based violence had become one of the key features of all conflicts that were addressed in the Council.  “Is this new or is it that those crimes had become more visible?” she asked.  The Government of Sudan must allow UNAMID unrestricted access to investigate the rape in Thabit.  The Prosecutor must also investigate that crime.  The Government of Sudan must also cooperate with the Court, providing all necessary assistance.  The arrest warrants issued by the Court in 2007 were still not executed.  The fight against impunity was not limited only to those countries who had signed the Rome Statute.  Argentina urged all States to cooperate with the Court.  If she was being repetitive, it was because the Prosecutor had also been repetitive.  It was alarming that the repeated letters from the Court to the Council had not been responded to.

DAVID PRESSMAN (United States) said the current year “marked a truly sad milestone”.  It had been 10 years since the Council urged the Government of Sudan to seek a peaceful resolution to the conflict, and when it failed to do so, the Council had taken the historic step of referring the situation to Court.  Over the past decade, the world had shown that it would combat impunity, bringing to justice a range of perpetrators from Charles Taylor in Liberia to the senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime.  But the progress that had occurred elsewhere had bypassed Darfur.  The Sudanese Government’s lack of cooperation was so profound that a cooperation request from the Prosecutor regarding one of the indictees was returned to the Court, “envelope unopened”.  The United States was deeply concerned about the mass rape in Thabit, which had not been fully investigated.  The Government of Sudan must remove all obstacles to UNAMID’s full discharge of its mandate.  The Mission had played a critical role in monitoring the facts on the ground.  The Mission’s engagement with the public must be open and forthcoming.  Justice could not bring back the lives lost, but it served as a foundation for healing.  The Sudanese people had waited far too long to see the crimes against them punished.

NIDA JAKUBONÉ (Lithuania) said 10 years after the Council had referred the Darfur case to the Court, the people of Darfur still continued to suffer from widespread violence, impunity and displacement.  Her delegation remained concerned about reports of mass rape of 200 women and girls in North Darfur, and the displacement of over 359,000 people by the attacks of pro-Government militias.  Given that, she called upon the Government of Sudan to take all necessary measures to ensure the security of civilians and guarantee justice for the victims of attacks.  Further, it was concerning that the Prosecutor of the Court faced numerous challenges in fulfilling its mandate, including lack of cooperation on the enforcement of the arrest warrants.  She called upon Sudan to meet its obligations under Council resolution 1593 (2005) and welcomed accurate and timely reporting of UNAMID on the situation in Darfur.

OH JOON (Republic of Korea) said that despite the decade-long effort of the Prosecutor’s Office to achieve justice and end impunity in Darfur, the situation was deteriorating there.  Simply denouncing or reprimanding attacks and abuses would not be enough, as events had demonstrated.  The Prosecutor should continue to monitor the situation and required the full support of all concerned in conducting a full investigation of the attacks in Thabit.  The Republic of Korea reiterated its support for all efforts of the Council to end impunity in Darfur and elsewhere.

CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile) noted with concern that the humanitarian and security situation had deteriorated during the reporting period.  The Court was absolutely essential to fighting impunity.  The Prosecutor’s Office needed to continue investigating all reports of attacks and abuses.  UNAMID should be allowed free access and freedom of movement to fulfil its mandate.  The Council had a special commitment to the situation in Darfur and needed to continue its close cooperation with the Court, with the support of parties and non-parties of the Rome Statute.

TANGUY STEHELIN (France) said that 10 years after the adoption of Council resolution 1593 (2005), UNAMID was not fully able to implement its civilian protection mandate.  The aerial bombardments by the Sudanese Army and the attacks against civilians by Sudanese security forces, the continued rapes and sexual violence by governmental armed forces and threats against humanitarian workers were all matters of concern.  The situation of impunity would encourage continued atrocities.  The November talks in Addis Ababa had not created any headway.  The obstacles to the discharge of UNAMID’s mandate dashed any hopes of stabilization. Unhindered humanitarian access was crucial, but UNAMID was still subjected to restrictions, as in the case of its investigation of the alleged rape in Thabit.  The Council must mobilize on two fronts, first by inducing all parties to stop attacking civilians and ensuring that UNAMID could implement its protection of civilians’ mandate.  The Council must also improve cooperation with the Court and enable the arrest warrants to be implemented.

MAHAMAT ZENE CHERIF (Chad), speaking in his national capacity, said that the deterioration of the security situation in Darfur and the negative impact on civilians was well-documented in the Secretary-General’s report.  Chad believed that only independent and impartial investigations could clarify the matter of the alleged mass rape in Thabit.  It was important to condemn the violence wherever it came from.  Taking note of the efforts of the Sudanese Government to improve the situation, Chad urged that Government to fulfil its responsibilities to its citizens.  To end to the suffering of the Sudanese people, it was necessary to the war in Darfur.  And to do so, it was necessary to support the African Union-led peace process.  Chad invited the Council to consider the situation in Darfur in a global context, bearing in mind all the agreements signed by different parties and the regional mediation efforts.

For information media. Not an official record.