ICC prosecutor urges Sudan at hand over Darfur battle crime suspects

Fatou Bensouda has given her final briefing as chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to the UN Security Council on Wednesday, lamenting that the tribunal has not but introduced justice to victims of atrocities in Sudan’s western Darfur area. But, she stated, a brand new period in Sudan and the switch of the primary Darfur suspect to the courtroom ought to give them hope.

Bensouda stated Darfur victims she spoke to final week had one message: Sudan’s transitional authorities ought to hand over three suspects sought by the courtroom who’re in its custody – former President Omar al-Bashir, who’s accused of genocide; former defence minister Abdel Raheem Hussein, and former inside minister and governor Ahmad Harun.

Bensouda, whose mandate ends June 15, stated she has centered on Darfur since crimes being dedicated there have been referred to the the courtroom by the Security Council in 2005, when she was deputy prosecutor. But her current go to to Sudan and Darfur was a primary – a memorable journey that she stated was “a strong reminder that we should focus on achieving justice for the victims and finding lasting peace for the people of Darfur.”

Bensouda cautioned, nevertheless, that “the road ahead remains long and fraught with dangers,” saying that Sudan’s transition following al-Bashir’s overthrow in April 2019 after mass protests demanding civilian rule “is still in its infancy”.

Still, she stated, after years of hostility and no cooperation, “the ICC and the government of Sudan have turned a new page in their relationship” and have been partaking in “constructive dialogue” and a “good spirit of cooperation.”

The huge Darfur area was gripped by bloodshed in 2003 when rebels from the territory’s ethnic central and sub-Saharan African group launched an armed rebel accusing the Arab-dominated authorities in Khartoum of discrimination and neglect.

The authorities, underneath al-Bashir, responded with a scorched-earth assault of aerial bombings and unleashed native nomadic Arab militias often known as the Popular Defence Forces on the inhabitants, leading to numerous reviews of mass killings and rapes. Up to 300,000 individuals had been killed and a pair of.7 million had been pushed from their properties.

Legal obligation

Bensouda stated she urged the handover of al-Bashir and the others at conferences with Sudanese authorities officers, together with the top of the Sovereignty Council, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.

“Sudan is under a legal obligation to surrender the suspects” underneath the Security Council decision that referred Darfur to the courtroom, she stated.

Harun, who faces 20 counts of crimes in opposition to humanity and 22 counts of battle crimes, stays at massive. His presence on the Hague-based courtroom is required for the trial to start.

Bensouda stated Harun’s switch is pressing so he may be tried with Sudanese militia chief Ali Kushayb, who voluntarily surrendered a yr in the past to the courtroom in The Hague, Netherlands. She appealed to the Security Council “to prevail upon Sudan to immediately honour Mr Harun’s wish and facilitate his transfer to the ICC without delay.”

4eb87b8c30dd4bbbb38cd32cf386a3e1 18Bensouda, whose mandate ends June 15, stated she has centered on Darfur since 2005 [File: Bas Czerwinski/Pool via AP]

Richard Dicker, worldwide justice director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), stated: “It’s well past time for Khartoum to honour its responsibility to the victims of Darfur. Surrendering these three suspects would signal an indelible commitment to the rule of law.”

Adam Day, programme director at United Nations University’s Center for Policy Research who was a political officer with the UN-African Union peacekeeping drive in Darfur in 2008, stated the query now’s: “What incentives can the international community offer the new Sudanese government to turn over the suspects to the ICC? … Will major international donors insist that their support be conditioned on the handover of al-Bashir” and the others?

“As a cash-strapped government in desperate need of support, that could tip the balance towards handover,” he advised The Associated Press.

Eric Reeves, a retired Smith College professor who has labored on Sudan for 22 years and is a trustee of the Darfur Bar Association, stated Bensouda has spent her whole time attempting to get the Darfur circumstances prosecuted “and has not succeeded”.

“She knows as well as anyone if the court can’t bring convictions in the case of Darfur then the court has probably seen its relevance either diminished entirely or diminished to the point where it just can’t function,” he stated. “If it fails it will be a major failure for international justice.”

The ICC was formally established on July 1, 2002, to carry accountable perpetrators of the world’s most critical crimes – genocide, battle crimes and crimes in opposition to humanity – in circumstances the place enough nationwide judicial methods will not be obtainable.

It has 123 member nations, and Bensouda’s workers is at the moment investigating alleged crimes in 13 different locations from Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and Libya to Bangladesh-Myanmar, Afghanistan and the occupied Palestinian territories. Darfur was the primary referral to the courtroom by the Security Council.

‘Without fear or favour’

Nine Security Council members which can be events to the courtroom issued a press release after Wednesday’s assembly, calling for intensified efforts to give up all suspects, commending Sudanese authorities and the UN for facilitating Bensouda’s go to, and expressing gratitude to the prosecutor for her persistence in combating impunity and pursuing worldwide justice “without fear or favour”.

Day from the United Nations University recalled that when Bensouda turned prosecutor in 2011, the courtroom confronted criticism for being overly centered on African conflicts in addition to the chance that some African international locations would possibly withdraw from the courtroom.

“One of Bensouda’s biggest accomplishments was in fact saving the ICC from that negative trajectory, restoring the legitimacy of the international community,” he stated.

“I think Bensouda has successfully kept Darfur on the Security Council’s agenda, and has made a consistent and well-reasoned point that peace in Darfur cannot be achieved without a meaningful reckoning with past human rights abuses,” Day stated.

HRW’s Dicker referred to sanctions in opposition to Bensouda and one other courtroom official by US President Donald Trump in 2020 over the courtroom’s investigations into alleged battle crimes by the US in Afghanistan and by US ally Israel within the Palestinian territories. They had been lifted by the Biden administration on April 2.

“Fatou Bensouda brought a staunch commitment to defending the independence of her office in the face of unprecedented pressure that was aimed at exacting a high personal cost,” Dicker stated. “Yet, she did not flinch. This prosecutorial legacy is fundamental to the court’s legitimacy.”

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