With extraordinary political change under way in Sudan, its transitional Government must ensure justice for the victims of atrocities in Darfur by either prosecuting the five suspects wanted by the International Criminal Court, including former President Omer Hassan Ahmed al‑Bashir, domestically, or sending them to The Hague for trial without delay, the Chief Prosecutor told the Security Council today.
Fatou Bensouda, presenting her report to the Council on developments since her previous briefing on 19 June (see Press Release SC/13849), expressed great confidence that Sudan’s new leaders will honour their commitments, including the Court’s outstanding arrest warrants for Mr. Al-Bashir — sentenced on 14 December to two years in detention for financial crimes — and four other individuals, including two who remain at large.
“Sudan must ensure that the five suspects in the Darfur situation are brought to justice without delay, either in a courtroom in Sudan or in The Hague”, she said, emphasizing that the opportunity to take concrete steps to end impunity for alleged crimes in Darfur must be seized.
[Mr. Al-Bashir, who is wanted for crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide, was the first sitting Head of State to be issued with an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court, which received a referral regarding the situation in Darfur by the Security Council, through resolution 1593 (2005).]
In the ensuing debate, Council members echoed Ms. Bensouda’s call for Sudan to cooperate with the Court. They also voiced concern at ongoing unrest in Darfur, including clashes between Government forces and the Sudan Liberation Army-Abdul Wahid al-Nur faction in the Jebel Marra area.
Côte d’Ivoire’s representative, emphasizing that fighting impunity and ensuring accountability are critical for national reconciliation and lasting peace, called on the Court to support the Sudanese authorities’ efforts to ensure that justice is served, including by bolstering national judicial institutions.
South Africa’s delegate underscored the principle of complementarity underpinning the Rome Statute, whereby States bear primary responsibility to investigate and prosecute crimes. He expressed concern that sexual violence is still being used as a weapon of war in Darfur and called on the military and security forces to ensure the full protection of civilians and respect for human rights.
Belgium’s representative said the situation in Darfur cannot be set apart from the situation in the rest of Sudan. Indeed, Council support to the Court is more important than ever before, he said, adding that justice is a linchpin for peace in Darfur and throughout the country.
Kuwait’s delegate, among other speakers, asserted that Sudan’s sovereignty and independence must be respected. In that regard, she drew attention to a decision by the League of Arab States in 2010 that rejected the politicization of the principles of international justice.
The United States representative urged the transitional Government to honour its promises. While Mr. Al-Bashir’s conviction is encouraging, he added, the charges were narrowly focused and there can be no lasting peace if no one is held accountable for the deaths of nearly 300,000 people.
Sudan’s representative, taking the floor at the conclusion of the debate, said that in the wake of his sentencing, Mr. Al-Bashir will be prosecuted for more serious crimes, including the coup that brought him to power. Fighting impunity, he stressed, is a priority for the December revolution and a necessary element for establishing lasting peace, adding: “We will not allow any person to escape punishment and responsibility.”
Also speaking were representatives of Dominican Republic, United Kingdom, France, China, Equatorial Guinea, Russian Federation, Indonesia, Peru, Germany and Poland.
The meeting began at 3:03 p.m. and ended at 4:32 p.m.
FATOU BENSOUDA, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, reiterated a message from her previous Council briefing, urging the authorities in Sudan and the Council to seize the opportunity to ensure that suspects facing arrest warrants will finally face justice. Expressing great confidence that Sudan will honour its commitments, she said she was emboldened by the extraordinary political changes in Sudan over the last six months resulting in several positive developments in relation to the situation in Darfur, including the Juba Declaration of 11 September, setting out a comprehensive road map for peace across the country. The Court’s arrest warrants for five suspects relating to Darfur — former President Omer al-Bashir, Abdel Raheem Hussein, Ahmad Harun, all detained in Khartoum, and Ali Kushayb and Abdallah Banda, whose whereabouts are unknown — remain in force. Noting that Mr. Al-Bashir was sentenced on 14 December to two years in detention for financial crimes, she said the primary responsibility to investigate and prosecute cases lies within national jurisdictions, adding that: “Sudan must ensure that the five suspects in the Darfur situation are brought to justice without delay, either in a courtroom in Sudan or in The Hague.”.
Since her previous briefing, she said, high-level Sudanese officials have made encouraging public statements indicating a clear commitment to accountability. Hopefully, in the near future, the Office of the Prosecutor will be granted access to Sudan to facilitate its work and discuss the way forward. Sudan has a legal obligation to cooperate and doing so would clearly show its commitment to achieve justice for victims of the Darfur situation. Noting that crimes in Darfur are continuing, she said the situation there remains a priority for the Office, which will investigate and prosecute those most responsible for crimes that fall within the Court’s jurisdiction. While clashes between Government forces and the Sudan Liberation Army-Abdul Wahid al-Nur have continued in Jebel Marra, sexual and gender-based violence and grave violations against children have persisted. The African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) has meanwhile reported that elements of the Sudan Liberation Army-Abdul Wahid al-Nur have abducted non-governmental organization (NGO) employees and looted humanitarian equipment, she said, also expressing hope that Sudanese authorities will conduct impartial investigations into alleged attacks by Government forces on peaceful protests in Khartoum on 3 June.
“It is time to embark on a new chapter in the relationship between Sudan and my Office rooted in a commitment to finally bring those most responsible for the atrocity crimes perpetrated against the people of Darfur to justice,” she said, adding that with Sudan on a path to greater peace and stability, justice for victims will be essential for a comprehensive and enduring peace in Darfur. She invited Sudan, with support from the Council and all stakeholders, to work with the Office and show that the Sudan of today is unambiguously committed to achieving justice for victims in Darfur. “We must seize the opportunity now to take concrete steps towards ending impunity for the alleged crimes in Darfur”, she said, reiterating the Office’s willingness to engage in dialogue and cooperation with Sudan to ensure that justice is served, either in a Sudanese court or before the International Criminal Court.
JOSÉ MANUEL TRULLOLS YABRA (Dominican Republic), hailing the signing of the Juba Declaration and other achievements in Sudan, welcomed the sentence handed down to Mr. Al-Bashir. However, he noted, the charges against him were less serious than those alleged in the context of the International Criminal Court. In addition, civilians must be protected in Jebel Marra and in camps for displaced persons. The fight against sexual crimes must also be a priority. Reaffirming his country’s support for the Court, he said that the new authorities in Sudan have a responsibility to engage with the Prosecutor.
SUSAN JANE DICKSON (United Kingdom), thanking Ms. Bensouda for her work, reaffirmed support for the International Criminal Court. She welcomed progress in Sudan, including its intention to improve judicial capacities for transitional justice. Accountability must be ensured for crimes in Darfur. Expressing concern about further violence, she said long-term peace must be a priority. Welcoming the signing of the Juba Declaration, she urged all stakeholders to continue talks. She called on the Government of Sudan to engage with the Prosecutor to ensure that those accused of horrific crimes in Darfur are held to account. She commended the Prosecutor for the work she has done under constraints in Sudan, encouraging the Office to continue its efforts.
SHERAZ GASRI (France) said the International Criminal Court must be able to carry out its vital functions. Commending the Prosecutor’s work, she said the fight against impunity in Sudan must be made a priority as part of efforts to advance democracy. Welcoming the Commission of Inquiry in this regard, she called for Sudan to endow it with adequate means to hold accountable those responsible for heinous crimes in Darfur. Unfortunately, women and children in the region are still targeted, she said, also calling on Sudan to enable the Prosecutor’s team to travel to Darfur. In addition, she called for the start of prosecuting suspects in crimes committed in the period before the transition and those committed in Darfur, or for Sudanese authorities to hand over these cases to the International Criminal Court.
ZHANG DIANBIN (China) called on the international community to respect the judicial sovereignty of Sudan and respect the opinions of the Government. China’s position on the International Criminal Court with regard to the Darfur issue remains unchanged.
JOB OBIANG ESONO MBENGONO (Equatorial Guinea) welcomed progress made by the new Sudanese administration in Darfur and elsewhere in the country. He expressed hope that the road map for peace will be followed and that the Court will be able to discharge its responsibilities. All perpetrators of major crimes must be brought to justice. Priority, however, must be given to the adjudication of cases in Sudan’s courts, with capacities built for that purpose. The sovereignty of the country should be fully respected. However, he said that any statement his delegation makes on the issue must not be interpreted as support for the Court’s jurisdiction, adding: “We reject that jurisdiction.”
MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium), commending recent developments in Sudan, said the transitional Government has a golden opportunity to provide justice for victims of grave crimes in Darfur. The Government now has two options: to prosecute the five suspects in Sudanese court, or to arrest and transfer them to the International Criminal Court. He invited the transitional Government to respond to the Office of the Prosecutor’s request to cooperate and to facilitate access to Sudan to engage with key witnesses and gather evidence. The situation in Darfur cannot be set apart from the situation in the rest of Sudan, he said, emphasizing that Council support to the Court is more important than ever before and that justice is a linchpin for peace in Darfur and throughout the country.
GENNADY V. KUZMIN (Russian Federation) acknowledged the mediation efforts of Ethiopia and the African Union, adding that the Council must also pay tribute to the Sudanese who overcame their differences despite unyielding external pressure. Highlighting a striking improvement in the security situation in Darfur and a certain normalization in the humanitarian sphere, he said there are no adverse security trends emerging, and clashes in Jebel Marra do not change that assessment. The Council must stay the course and move towards a phased drawdown and withdrawal of UNAMID. Darfur is facing peacebuilding challenges, not peacekeeping ones, and the time has come to give priority to economic development.
MUHSIN SYIHAB (Indonesia) said progress in Sudan must serve as a stepping stone for further tangible achievements towards sustainable peace and socioeconomic recovery in Darfur. With displaced persons and others still confronted by security challenges, he highlighted the importance of the full protection of civilians and the observance of international humanitarian law. Given the continued abuse of human rights, he pointed to an urgent need to uphold accountability and ensure that all Sudanese regain confidence in law enforcement and judicial institutions. He acknowledged the Council’s responsibility to ensure that Sudan complies with the provisions of resolution 1593 (2005). At the same time, the referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court must be handled in cognizance of the principle of complementarity to national criminal jurisdiction. “Whilst calling on Sudan to take up those responsibilities promptly and properly, we must also empower Sudan’s judicial authority to exercise its sovereignty, including through capacity-building for its justice system”, he stated.
GBOLIÉ DÉSIRÉ WULFRAN IPO (Côte d’Ivoire) said that while political changes in Sudan have had a positive impact, the atmosphere remains fragile, as demonstrated by sporadic clashes in Jebel Marra and reports of persistent crime. Human rights violations and sexual and gender-based violence also remain troubling, he said, emphasizing that fighting impunity and ensuring accountability are critical for national reconciliation and lasting peace. He called on the Court to support the Sudanese authorities’ efforts to ensure justice is served, including by bolstering national judicial institutions. In addition, a successful political and peacebuilding process requires the engagement of national, regional and international stakeholders.
JAWAHER EBRAHEEM DUAIJ E. ALSABAH (Kuwait) said Darfur is an integral part of Sudan and justice must be the result of efforts by the Sudanese themselves. Hopefully, the Court’s proceedings will not hinder peace efforts and that Sudan’s people will be allowed to move ahead with the transitional process. The Court’s decision regarding former President Al-Bashir has not been endorsed by international organizations that include Sudan, including the League of Arab States, Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the African Union. As the Arab State member of the Council, Kuwait recalls the League of Arab States decision of 2010 that rejected the politicization of the principles of international justice, she said, highlighting the importance of respecting Sudan’s sovereignty and independence.
LUIS UGARELLI (Peru), commending recent political developments, affirmed the importance of the Government’s efforts to build peace with all parties in Darfur. Building peace also involves holding responsible those accused of serious crimes in Darfur. Sudanese officials must ensure the arrest of all such accused and cooperate with the International Criminal Court and its Prosecutor when necessary. The remit of the Court must be seen, however, as complementary and interdependent.
JUERGEN SCHULZ (Germany) pledged his country’s continued support for the democratic aspirations of the Sudanese people. In this regard, he wanted to know more about the new Government’s plans for transitional justice. Those responsible for crimes in Darfur must be held accountable. In line with the principle of complementarity, it is the primary responsibility of the State concerned to bring about accountability. If crimes under the Rome Statute do not fall under domestic laws, however, then it is appropriate for the Government to engage with the International Criminal Court. He called on all members of the Council who are parties to the Rome Statute to lend strong support to the Court in this matter, calling on those who have not yet acceded to do so.
XOLISA MFUNDISO MABHONGO (South Africa) called for the International Criminal Court to conduct effective and fair prosecutions in accordance with its mandate. He also underscored the principle of complementarity underpinning the Rome Statute, with States bearing the primary responsibility to investigate and prosecute crimes. Expressing deep concern about continuing violence and loss of life in Darfur, he deplored violence directed at civilians. In particular, he expressed concern that sexual violence continues to be a weapon of war in Darfur. He called on the military and security forces to ensure the full protection of civilians and respect for their human rights and freedoms, also urging all stakeholders to engage in constructive dialogue.
MARIUSZ LEWICKI (Poland) welcomed the public commitments by Sudan’s new authorities to ensure peace in Darfur and honour the demands for justice from victims. He encouraged the Government to seize the unprecedented opportunity to continue to take steps towards these goals and develop a cooperative relationship with the Office of the Prosecutor, including enabling it to connect with key witnesses and collect documentary and forensic evidence, and work on apprehending, arresting and surrendering suspects in the Darfur situation. There is no information indicating that any of the Court’s suspects are subject to domestic investigations or prosecution in Sudan for the crimes alleged in the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrants, which remain in force, he said, expressing hope that the new authorities will pursue peace and justice and open a new chapter of cooperation with the Court.
MICHAEL BARKIN (United States) said his delegation is encouraged by the steps being taken in Sudan to build a more stable, secure future and that women have been appointed to key positions, including the first female chief justice. The ouster of Mr. Al-Bashir, who is a symbol of genocide, crimes against humanity and other atrocities, sends a signal that power cannot be secured indefinitely through violence. Highlighting Prime Minister Abdalla Adam Hamdok’s recent visit to Washington, D.C., and the United States intention to elevate its diplomatic relations with Khartoum, he urged the transitional Government to honour its promises, address the root causes of conflict and create conditions to allow displaced persons to return home. While Mr. Al-Bashir’s conviction is encouraging, the charges were narrowly focused and there can be no lasting peace if no one is held accountable for the deaths of nearly 300,000 people, rampant sexual violence and the widespread burning of homes. Moreover, absent a durable peace agreement in Darfur, fighting in Jebel Marra and the perpetration of sexual violence will remain a grim reality. Reiterating his country’s position vis-à-vis the International Criminal Court and national judicial jurisdictions, he said its concerns about the Court and the situation in Afghanistan are well-known.
OMER MOHAMED AHMED SIDDIG (Sudan) affirmed that his country has seen developments leading to a new democratic reality, where there is no place for impunity, where accountability will be guaranteed and rulings are enforced. The people of Darfur suffered under the former regime, and for this reason, the transitional Government has prioritized the situation. Following the signing of the Juba Declaration and its follow up, the transitional President has already met with several leaders of oppositional factions from Darfur and residents of displaced-persons camps in the further pursuit of lasting peace. On 14 December, he said, former President Al-Bashir was sentenced to serve two years in prison on charges of illegal enrichment and foreign exchange deals, and will face further prosecution under laws for more serious crimes, including the previous coup.
The Government has prioritized crimes committed in Darfur as part of its efforts to ensure that the serious crimes committed there and elsewhere are not repeated, he said. As such, a qualified judge has been appointed, the first female chief justice in the country. Welcoming international recognition of progress in his country and a need to transition from peacekeeping to development, he said the Government has requested a one-year-long delay in the planned UNAMID drawdown to ensure that tasks related to justice and human rights can be carried out. Fighting impunity, which is the responsibility of competent national authorities, is a priority for the December revolution and a necessary element for establishing lasting peace in Sudan. The Government is committed to fighting impunity, he assured the Council, adding: “We will not allow any person to escape punishment and responsibility.”