Creation of Transitional Justice Commission under Way, Sudan’s Representative Says
Sudan must now fully seize its critical role in delivering long-awaited justice to victims by ending impunity for perpetrators of atrocity crimes committed in Darfur almost 20 years ago, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court told the Security Council today.
Briefing the 15-member organ for the final time in her current capacity as Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda presented the thirty-third report on the situation in Darfur, pursuant to resolution 1593 (2005), highlighting achievements and challenges ahead. Today, “developments in Sudan amply demonstrate that the arm of justice is long and patient,” she said, recalling productive meetings with authorities and victims in affected communities during a recent visit to Darfur — the Court’s first in 15 years. Citing forward steps towards delivering justice, she said the Office had presented evidence at hearings in May for two suspects, and a new page had been turned towards constructive cooperation between the Court and the transitional Government of Sudan to address outstanding issues.
Still, the road ahead remains long and fraught with dangers, she said. The transitional Government must now tangibly demonstrate that the new Sudan is now a full-fledged member of the international community that has joined the fight against impunity and is fully committed to justice and the rule of law. Almost all the suspects are in the custody of the Government of Sudan, and there is no legal impediment to their surrender to Court. Raising several concerns, she said a volatile security situation in some areas of Darfur has seen tribal fighting and armed clashes between Government forces and armed rebel groups contribute to large-scale displacements and deaths. She also expressed dismay at reports indicating an increase in incidents of sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls.
At the same time, she said, the situation in Darfur is a clear demonstration of how the framers of the Rome Statute system envisaged the Court and the Security Council working together towards the twin goals of justice and peace. The Council’s referral of the Darfur situation to the Court in 2005 — the first of its kind related to atrocity crimes — brought hope to the victims by sending a clear message: justice is not only important in its own right, but also has a multiplier effect on achieving sustainable peace, she said. (See Press Release SC/8351.)
“Justice and accountability in Sudan, including Darfur, cannot be achieved without maintaining security and stability for vulnerable communities,” she said, calling on Council members and regional partners to help Sudan break this troubling cycle of violence. Indeed, the support of all United Nations Member States in restoring and maintaining lasting peace in Sudan remains as important today as it was 16 years ago, she said, adding that: “I trust that the recent progress that has been made in the Darfur situation, after so many years of shattered promises and disappointment, will serve as a beacon of hope to the victims of atrocity crimes in other situation countries, as well.”
In the ensuing discussion, many Council members voiced concerns about chronic violence, with some calling for Sudan to meet its obligations to the responsibility to protect civilians. Many commended recent positive steps, including the operationalization of Sudan’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a Special Court for Darfur crimes.
Calling for international support for such steps, Kenya’s delegate highlighted a recent African Union Peace and Security Council meeting recognizing the readiness of Sudan’s transitional Government to address justice-related issues. The representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, acknowledging current national efforts, said Sudan bears primary responsibility for protecting its citizens as well as for investigating and prosecuting atrocities.
Council members whose States are not party to the Rome Statute and do not recognize the Court shared their perspectives. China’s delegate emphasized that the Court should follow the principle of fully respecting the sovereignty of the Government of Sudan. India’s delegate, recognizing Sudan’s efforts to deliver justice, called on the international community to support the nation in its political transition. The United States representative, expressing full support for the Court’s investigations, called on the transitional Government to honour its obligations under the Juba Peace Agreement and resolution 1593 (2005).
Sudan’s representative said that ensuring justice for crimes committed in Darfur is a priority for the transitional Government. Citing a range of steps being taken, he said work is under way to establish a transitional justice commission whose tasks will include, among other things, revealing the truth, providing restitution and pursuing reconciliation. Once established, the commission will conduct an expanded dialogue to ensure that it fulfils the expectations of victims and achieves the spirit of justice, he said.
Also delivering statements were representatives of Mexico, Tunisia, Norway, the United Kingdom, Niger, Ireland, Viet Nam, France, Russian Federation and Estonia.
The meeting began at 10:02 a.m. and ended at 11:35 a.m.
FATOU BENSOUDA, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, presented the thirty-third report on the situation in Darfur, pursuant to resolution 1593 (2005). Briefing the Council for the final time in her current capacity as Prosecutor, she said the situation in Darfur is a clear demonstration of how the framers of the Rome Statute system envisaged the Court and the Security Council to work together towards the twin goals of justice and peace. The Council’s referral of the Darfur situation to the Court in 2005 — the first of its kind related to atrocity crimes — brought hope to the victims by sending a clear message: justice is not only important in its own right, but also has a multiplier effect on achieving sustainable peace.
Outlining recent achievements, she said “developments in Sudan amply demonstrate that the arm of justice is long and patient”, recalling the productive meetings she held with victims and Sudanese authorities during a recent visit to Darfur — the Court’s first in 15 years. The Court and the Government of Sudan have turned a new page in their relationship, with constructive dialogue and cooperation replacing the old days of hostilities. Following the conclusion of a Memorandum of Understanding on 14 February, her team has undertaken investigative activities in Sudan and begun to prepare to go to Darfur soon. She remained confident that the Sudanese authorities, the United Nations and its entities will continue to extend the same excellent cooperation and support to her successor as they have done to provide invaluable support to the Court’s work and her recent visit to Darfur.
However, the road ahead remains long and fraught with dangers, she continued. Accountability remains critical for lasting peace. During her recent visit, she said she had conveyed to Sudanese officials, including the Prime Minister, the wishes victims had expressed for the four outstanding warrants to be executed and the suspects handed over to the Court. Stressing the urgent need for Ahmad Muhammad Harun to be transferred to Court custody, she said the Government must tangibly demonstrate that the new Sudan is now a full-fledged member of the international community that has joined the fight against impunity and is fully committed to justice and the rule of law. Almost all the suspects are in the custody of the Government of Sudan, and there is no legal impediment to their surrender to Court.
Recalling that her visit to Darfur resulted in pledges by the Walis or Governors of the three states she visited to support the Office and the Court in pursuit of justice, she said meetings with affected communities provided a unique opportunity to manage victims’ expectations and explain what the Court is capable of, what it does and what it cannot do. However, more work remains to be done in this regard. Pointing to other gains, she said that between 24 and 26 May, the Pre-Trial Chamber II convened the confirmation of charges hearing for Mr. Abd-Al-Rahman, during which the Office presented evidence in order to demonstrate that there are substantial grounds to believe that the suspect was responsible for all 31 counts charged in relation to crimes alleged to have been committed in Kodoom, Bindisi, Mukjar, Deleig and surrounding areas between August 2003 and March 2004.
However, she regretted to note that the security situation in some areas of Darfur remains volatile, with continued tribal fighting and armed clashes between Government forces and armed rebel groups contributing to large-scale displacements and deaths. Dismayed by reports indicating an increase in incidents of sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls, especially internally displaced persons, she said these despicable crimes must be denounced. “Justice and accountability in Sudan, including Darfur, cannot be achieved without maintaining security and stability for vulnerable communities,” she said, calling on Council members and regional partners to help Sudan break this troubling cycle of violence.
The Court’s success to date stems from broad support, she said, thanking all stakeholders, including the Security Council, State parties and non-State parties to the Rome Statute and civil society, for their assistance. The referral of the Darfur situation to the Office in 2005, the first of its kind, was a landmark development in the fight to end impunity for perpetrators of atrocity crimes. The support of all United Nations Member States in restoring and maintaining lasting peace in Sudan, by promoting the rule of law and protecting human rights, remains as important today as it was 16 years ago, she said, adding that: “I trust that the recent progress that has been made in the Darfur situation, after so many years of shattered promises and disappointment, will serve as a beacon of hope to the victims of atrocity crimes in other situation countries, as well.”
JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMIREZ (Mexico) emphasized that implementing the Juba Peace Agreement is a priority for achieving lasting peace. Everyone must work towards that goal. He appealed for the surrender of wanted individuals, and in the case of Abdallah Banda Abakaer Nourain, urged Sudan and countries in the region to do more to locate, arrest and render him to the International Criminal Court. Underscoring the need to collect evidence, he said that he hoped to see even closer cooperation between the Court and UNITAMS and United Nations agencies in Sudan, particularly in terms of logistical support. He went on to appeal for a cessation of violence in Darfur, which is an obstacle to the collection of evidence on the ground.
ALI CHERIF (Tunisia) said that his country is following with satisfaction developments in Sudan and salutes the transitional Government’s tireless efforts to ensure harmony across Sudanese society. He commended the fact that peace and justice are proceeding hand in hand in Darfur and welcomed ongoing direct talks in Juba between the transitional Government and the Sudan’s People Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N). Noting that relations between the transitional Government and the Court have shifted to a higher level, he said that Tunisia supports efforts by the Office of the Prosecutor to gather more on-site evidence and to help achieve justice by working closely with victims and affected communities in Darfur.
TRINE SKARBOEVIK HEIMERBACK (Norway) welcomed the Prosecutor’s landmark visit to Darfur, while voicing concern about the still‑precarious security situation in some parts of that state and condemning all human rights violations and abuses, including sexual and gender-based violence and violence directed towards children. Large-scale displacement of the civilian population also remains of particular concern, she said, emphasizing that the victims of atrocities in Darfur deserve justice. “There will be no lasting peace in Sudan until there is accountability for the crimes that have been committed during the long years of conflict,” she said, welcoming the confirmation of the charges hearing held by the International Criminal Court’s Pre-Trial Chamber in the case against the Sudanese militia leader Kushayb. Praising Sudan’s engagement with the Court, she urged the Government to transfer the remaining individuals for whom there are arrest warrants, echoing Ms. Bensouda’s call to have Ahmad Muhammad Harun transferred to the Court in parallel with Mr. Kushayb and calling specifically for Mr. Banda to surrender.
THOMAS RATHMELL WOODROFFE (United Kingdom) said the continued work of the Prosecutor and the Court are ensuring that accountability is achieved. Given the current situation on the ground, he urged the Government to protect civilians and their safety. Welcoming the Prosecutor’s historic visit, he said such positive developments attest to, among other things, the Government’s cooperation with the Court. He urged the Government to continue to cooperate, including conducting a joint trial for Mr. Harun and Mr. Raman instead of trying them separately, with a view to minimizing the traumatization of victims. He called for the surrender of Mr. Banda. More broadly, he called on Sudan to continue its efforts to address the concerns of the Sudanese people.
CATHERINE NYABOKE NYAKOE (Kenya) noted positive steps Sudan is taking to ensure its national institutional and legal frameworks are supportive of international efforts — as mandated by Council resolution 1593 (2005) — while stressing that those steps must be reciprocated. In its April meeting, the African Union Peace and Security Council acknowledged the readiness of Sudan’s transitional Government to address issues relating to transitional justice, including accountability for human rights violations, through a truth and reconciliation process, and called on African States to share their experiences and best practices. Describing that exchange as a critical step, he welcomed the operationalization of Sudan’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission in relation to Darfur, as well as the Special Court for Darfur crimes. Calling for international support for such efforts, he recalled the Council’s invitation to the Court and the African Union to discuss practical arrangements that will facilitate the Court’s work — including the possibility of conducting proceedings in the region under resolution 1593 (2005) — and asked the Prosecutor to outline the status of her Office’s engagement with the regional bloc to that end.
NIANDOU AOUGI (Niger) encouraged the Court to continue its constructive relationship with the transitional Government in Sudan. Turning to recent judicial activities, he welcomed the decision to ensure the participation of victims. Concerned about the widespread displacement of civilians, he also deplored the loss of human lives in connection with clashes between Sudan’s military forces and armed groups. As a Council member, Niger has prioritized upholding the rights of women and children, he said, calling for the responsibility to protect to be upheld. He called on the Sudanese transitional Government to further strengthen its cooperation with the International Criminal Court.
DAI BING (China) expressed hope that the current good momentum advances, as the situation on the ground is largely stable. However, he called on the Government of Sudan to work towards scaling up capacity and addressing the root causes of conflict in light of recent sporadic clashes. He also emphasized that the International Criminal Court should follow the principle of fully respecting the sovereignty of the Government of Sudan in all regards.
GARETH BYNOE (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) encouraged Sudan’s transitional Government to stay on the progressive path and go forward with reforms, including finalizing the establishment of the Transitional Legislative Council. While Sudan faces lingering socioeconomic challenges and intercommunal challenges, its tenacity will permit it to forge ahead. International donors should continue to support Sudan and increase their contributions to the National Humanitarian Response Plan. He emphasized the importance of full and timely implementation of the Constitutional Document and the Juba Peace Agreement, adding that Sudan bears primary responsibility for protecting its citizens, as well as for investigating and prosecuting atrocities.
GERALDINE BRYNE NASON (Ireland) hoped that the positive engagement between the International Criminal Court and the transitional Government of Sudan during the last six months will mark the start of a strong relationship between them. At the same time, however, Sudan has an ongoing obligation to carry out four outstanding arrest warrants and surrender the remaining suspects to the Court. Noting that Sudan’s transition remains fragile, she voiced deep concern about the killing of civilians and reports of sexual and gender-based violence in Darfur. “The pattern of violence and perpetration indicates that the power and impunity dynamics, which underlay the war in Darfur and the current situation investigation, have not yet been effectively addressed,” she said. She went on to encourage the transitional Government to prioritize the establishment of transitional justice mechanisms under the Juba Peace Agreement, as part of Sudan’s broader democratic transition.
DANG DINH QUY (Viet Nam) stressed the critical need to implement the Juba Peace Agreement and make progress on Sudan’s transitional process. In that regard, UNITAMS and the Government should continue to work closely together. He welcomed dialogue between Sudan’s transitional Government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North — Abdel Aziz al-Hilu faction and called on other remaining armed groups in Darfur to join the peace process. The Government should also further promote women’s participation at the national and local levels. Turning to Sudan’s humanitarian and economic challenges, he said the Government must do more to protect civilians and take steps to address intercommunal violence in Darfur. Sudan should also have easier access to debt relief and international financial facilities. Noting the Prosecutor’s latest report, he said that establishing accountability for violations of international humanitarian law and serious criminal acts must be carried out in line with the fundamental principles of international law, including respect for a State’s independence and sovereignty.
JEFFREY DELAURENTIS (United States), recalling that the Council referred the situation in Sudan to the International Criminal Court 16 years ago, underscored his country’s full support for the Court’s investigations and called on the transitional Government to honour its obligations under the Juba Peace Agreement and resolution 1593 (2005) to cooperate with the Court. He recalled that, in May, the Council detailed its concern about rising intercommunal violence in Darfur and the need for the authorities to address underlying issues, including gross violations of human rights, lack of trust between local communities and the indifference of the former regime in Khartoum towards Sudanese citizens who simply wanted a better future for their children and families. Going forward, the Council must continue to underscore the need to build lasting peace and security, promote human rights and hold those responsible for insecurity to account. At the same time, the transitional Government bears a responsibility to protect all Sudanese people, he said, adding that ending a culture of impunity is an important step in that direction.
DIARRA DIME-LABILLE (France), describing the Prosecutor’s visit to Khartoum as historic, said that building a durable and inclusive peace in Sudan will not be possible without justice. She urged the transitional Government to grant International Criminal Court investigators access to Darfur without delay or hindrance and with satisfactory security conditions. Dialogue between the Court and the Sudanese authorities must be intensified and consider all possibilities set out in the Rome Statute. The resurgence of intercommunal violence in Darfur underscores the fragility of the security situation, she said, condemning in particular human rights violations and gender-based and sexual violence against women and girls. She went on to say that Sudan’s national commission for transitional justice, proposed in the Juba Peace Agreement, should be set up without delay.
GENNADY V. KUZMIN (Russian Federation) said his delegation’s position on the work of the International Criminal Court has not undergone any changes.
RAVINDRA RAGUTTAHALLI (India), noting that his delegation is not a member of the International Criminal Court nor a signatory of the Rome Statute, said the Government of Sudan has shown a willingness to address issues relating to transitional justice, including accountability for human rights violations, through a truth and reconciliation process. The parties to the Juba Peace Agreement have also agreed to establish a truth and reconciliation commission and a Special Court for Darfur Crimes, whose jurisdiction will include genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes since 2002. Going forward, stakeholders must engage in outstanding issues and find solutions. All assistance should be given to Sudan in its political transition, he said, urging the international community to demonstrate its support. For its part, India has assisted in capacity-building and other areas.
GERT AUVÄÄRT (Estonia), Council President for June, spoke in his national capacity, calling on all States to uphold the provisions of the Rome Statute. Hopefully, the Prosecutor’s recent visit paves the way for strengthening cooperation in pursuit of justice. Further cooperation between the Government of Sudan and the International Criminal Court may be warranted to ensure greater accountability. The four suspects with outstanding arrest warrants related to atrocity crimes must be surrendered to the Court without delay. Concerned about the security situation, he called on the Sudanese authorities to accelerate efforts to enhance the protection of civilians and restoration of the rule of law in Darfur. He expressed hope that Sudan will be cooperating closely with UNITAMS to help to build these capacities, and remained hopeful that by the next reporting period, there will be further concrete positive steps taken to provide justice to the victims of crimes committed. Justice needs to play a central role in Sudan’s transition, he said, adding that: “The Sudanese people have demanded a civilian Government, justice, and security; it must be our common aim to support these demands.”
Ms. BENSOUDA took the floor a second time to thank Council members for their kind words and to express appreciation for the work of her team in the Office of the Prosecutor. “Where I have fallen short, it was not for lack of trying,” she said.
MOHAMED IBRAHIM MOHAMED ELBAHI (Sudan) said that his country’s transitional Government is sparing no effort to uphold justice in Darfur because peace and justice go hand in hand. Following the signing of the Juba Peace Agreement in October 2020, the transitional Government is working closely with all parties to that instrument to achieve stability and a lasting and comprehensive peace. At the same time, Khartoum is also pursuing dialogue with those outside the peace process. He recalled that justice is one of the key themes of the Juba Peace Agreement, which underscored the need to cooperate with the International Criminal Court and adopt transitional justice arrangements. At the same time, the transitional Government is implementing a national plan on the protection of civilians, with the participation of signatories to the Juba Peace Agreement.
Ensuring justice for crimes committed in Darfur is a priority for the transitional Government, he said, recalling that the two sides signed a memorandum of understanding to set up a framework for cooperation and to facilitate the Court’s work in the country. He quoted Abdallah Hamduk, Prime Minister of Sudan, as saying last week that the transitional Government is working with the International Criminal Court and victim groups to find the best ways to bring wanted suspects to justice before the Court.
Sudan continues to work on improving living conditions in Darfur, which is undergoing a fundamental shift from conflict to peacebuilding, he added. To that end, it is working on the establishment of a transitional justice commission that would deal with cases in which transitional judicial methods would be difficult to use. Its work will include revealing the truth, establishing justice, providing restitution and pursuing reconciliation. Once established, this commission will carry out an expanded dialogue to ensure that it fulfils the expectations of victims and achieves the spirit of justice.