United Nations Security Council members that support protecting civilians in Darfur should urgently co-sponsor a resolution referring Darfur to the International Criminal Court. Today the Security Council extended by one week the mandate of the temporary international force in Sudan because it has been unable to agree on a package of measures to address the Darfur crisis and establish a peacekeeping force for Sudan more generally.
These measures must include ICC referral, more rigorous targeted sanctions, a no fly zone, and a substantially increased African Union presence on the ground in Darfur, Human Rights Watch urged.
"It's been two months since the U.N. Commission of Inquiry issued its alarming findings about Darfur," said Richard Dicker, director of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch. "This delay is allowing devastating human rights abuse to continue on the ground."
In the meantime, more delay is likely to lead to a more fragmented situation in Darfur, including the splintering of armed groups on all sides, increasing lack of control by leadership over rebel forces on the ground, and the proliferation of irregular armed forces, Human Rights Watch said. The situation is likely to become more and more difficult to resolve, creating worse human rights conditions.
As the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, stated this week to the U.N. Commission of Human Rights, "The abandonment - even the postponement - of the process of justice is an affront to those who obey the law and a betrayal of those who rely on the law for their protection; it is a call for the use of force in revenge and, therefore, a bankruptcy of peace."
"There is an urgent need for states that support justice for the people of Darfur to co-sponsor a resolution referring the situation to the ICC," said Dicker. "Inaction in the face of atrocities in Darfur sends a terrible message about the ability of the Security Council to respond to massive human rights violations."
The ICC remains the only course of action with the speed and staying power to ensure that those most responsible for serious crimes in Darfur are held accountable, Human Rights Watch said. The recent proposal by the Nigerian government to establish an "African panel for criminal justice and reconciliation" could potentially serve as a complementary effort to ICC prosecutions to ensure justice for human rights violations in Darfur. However, this proposal is no substitute for what will be a limited number of prosecutions of those most responsible by the ICC.