Darfur's ICC referral turns 10 years old


On 31 March 2005, and for the first time in history, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) adopted Resolution 1593, which referred the situation in Darfur, Sudan to the International Criminal Court (ICC). According to the text of the Resolution, the situation in Darfur constituted “a threat to international peace and security.” 10 years after the adoption of the Resolution, the situation has not improved and continues to be quite catastrophic: grave crimes continue to happen in Darfur on a daily basis and just a few weeks ago, Human Rights Watch announced it had documented the mass rape of 200 women in Tabit.

But that’s not only it: more than 300,000 people have died in Darfur since the fight began in 2003. The UN estimates 6.9 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in Sudan that by the end of 2015, there could be up to 460,000 refugees and asylum-seekers in the country.

On 5 March 2015, President al-Bashir has pledged “to bring peace and restore security to Darfur” through the elimination of what he called “the insurgency,” and disarming all who do not belong to the regular forces. Not yet any announcements or measures on the investigation and prosecution of massive crimes or human rights violations at a local level, neither there is any support to the ICC investigations.

As this Resolution turns 10 years and there are five existing cases at the Court related to the situation in Darfur, and the four main suspects with outstanding arrest warrants against them issued by the Pre Trial Chamber remain at large and most of them, still in high positions within the Government of the Sudan where they continue to be implicated in atrocities. For example President al-Bashir, just announced a plan to wipe out “the insurgency.”

Unfortunately, neither the UNSC nor member states of the UN have complied to the effective cooperation needed to the ICC in order to carry out its work. Despite the fact that according to the language of the 1593, “urge [s] all States and concerned regional and other international organizations to cooperate fully” with the Court, we have witnessed several blatant breaches, starting with President al-Bashir visits several UN member states and none of them executing the outstanding arrest warrants against him.

Al-Bashir, indicted in 2009 for war crimes, crimes against humanity and in 2010 for genocide, remains at large and is leading a public life as President of the Sudan and is seeking re-election in the April 2015 general elections, so every State knows where he is and where he goes. He even talked to international media outlets, last December, when he claimed victory over the ICC after the Court “shelved further investigation of war crimes in Darfur.” The truth is that the ICC Prosecutor Bensouda did not halt the investigation indefinitely, but she is provisionally “shifting resources to other urgent cases” given that the ICC does not have support from the UNSC.

The ICC does not have its own police or military force to execute the outstanding arrest warrants, the ICC relies on member states to enforce the warrants and it has not yet received significant support — at political or technical levels — from the UNSC in the situation in Darfur. “What is needed is a dramatic shift in this council’s approach to arresting Darfur suspects,” Bensouda told the UNSC. “Without stronger action by the Security Council and State Parties, the situation in Sudan is unlikely to improve and the alleged perpetrators of serious crimes against the civilian population will not be brought to justice,” she added.

Sudan has the duty to honor the existing obligations emerging from its membership to the UN, one of which includes complying with the Security Council resolutions. The Security Council, as the organ that referred the situation to the Court, should honor its own actions and respect what it had referred 10 years ago, by promoting and implementing effective cooperation with the Court, providing the budget for the investigations and respecting the letter and the spirit of the Rome Statute.

Finally, and most importantly, Sudan has to honor the duty towards its own people.

States Parties to the ICC have to honor the promise made in Rome upon the adoption of the ICC Statute and do not condone impunity — which is exactly the opposite of we all seek.

This post originally appeared on the Huffington Post.