New York: Accelerated cooperation with the International Criminal Court is the only viable path to ensuring long-delayed justice for the survivors of crimes against humanity in Darfur, the body’s top prosecutor has said.
"While Sudan remains in a delicate stage of transition, the only option to find a pathway to closure is acceleration," Karim A.A. Khan, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court told the United Nations (UN) Security Council today.
He briefed the Council on developments related to the situation in Darfur and resolution 1593 (2005), the 15-member organ’s first-ever text referring a situation to the Court.
While that landmark referral provided hope, he expressed his frustration that 17 years have now elapsed without any tangible accountability or justice for Darfur’s people.
In particular, he recalled, the absence of cooperation on the part of Sudan under the leadership of former Sudan President Omar al-Bashir led the Court’s last Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, to hibernate the investigation.
However, he said, following the 2018 uprising that overthrew Al-Bashir and put Sudan on a path of political transition, the Court was able to visit the country for the first time in many years and new progress was registered.
In July 2021, his Office successfully secured confirmation of all 31 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity against Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman, a senior leader of the Janjaweed militia in Darfur, for crimes including murder, rape, torture and attacks on the civilian population.
That trial will commence in April, marking the first-ever International Criminal Court trial stemming from a Security Council referral.
He went on to note that four other individuals related to the Darfur situation are currently subject to Court arrest warrants, including Al-Bashir; former Minister of Interior Abdel Raheem Muhammad Hussein; and former Governor of South Kordofan Ahmed Harun. The fourth individual, former Justice and Equality Movement commander Abdallah Banda, remains at large.
Outlining his initial meetings with Sudan Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, members of the country’s Sovereignty Council and other officials there, he recalled that the Court signed a memorandum of understanding with the Government in which, for the first time, the latter agreed to facilitate a full-time Court presence on the ground in Sudan.
Voicing regret that the military takeover in Sudan on in October 2021 marked a major setback in the Court’s work, he nevertheless reported that his team was able to travel to Khartoum in December to obtain fresh assurances from the Government that their work can continue.
He outlined his bolstered support to his Office’s Darfur team, including additional resources and the appointment of a pro bono Special Adviser devoted exclusively to the Darfur investigation.
Pledging his commitment to press forward, he repeated his request to the Government that his Office be granted safe and secure access to documents, crime scenes and witnesses in the months ahead.