Mr Romano Prodi
Italian Prime Minister
Re: Tomorrow's meeting with Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir
Dear Prime Minister Prodi,
In advance of your meeting with Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, Human Rights Watch wishes to raise serious concerns about the Sudanese government's failure to comply with its obligations to execute arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
As you know, the Sudanese government's campaign of "ethnic cleansing" in the Darfur region has gained widespread international attention since it began four years ago. Since July 2003, Sudanese government forces and militia forces known as "Janjaweed" have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity on a massive scale during counterinsurgency operations in Darfur. Civilians have suffered deliberate attack from land and air, summary execution, rape, torture and the pillaging of their property. These crimes have been documented extensively in reports by the United Nations' International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and by non-governmental organizations including Human Rights Watch.
The Security Council referred the situation in Darfur to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on March 31, 2005. On April 27, 2007, the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Sudanese state minister of humanitarian affairs Ahmed Haroun and Janjaweed leader Ali Kosheib for crimes against humanity and war crimes for their role in persecuting, raping, attacking and killing civilians in four villages in West Darfur.
Sudan has openly flouted its obligation under Security Council Resolution 1593 to cooperate with the court. Last week the Sudanese government nominated ICC suspect Haroun to co-chair a committee responsible for handling human rights complaints from Darfur. The appointment of an alleged war criminal to hear complaints from Darfurian victims exemplifies Khartoum's shocking disregard for those in Darfur who have suffered at the hands of the Sudanese government.
Italy simply cannot be silent on this issue. During your meeting with President Bashir, it is crucial that you stress, publicly and privately, Sudan's obligation to surrender the suspects to the ICC and fully cooperate with the court's further investigations. We urge you to convey to President Bashir that failure to execute the warrants may result in targeted punitive measures by Italy and other European countries against senior Sudanese government officials. These measures may include travel bans and seizure of assets.
When the UN Security Council referred the situation in Darfur to the ICC, it made a commitment to the victims of abuse and all Darfurians seeking the protection of their basic rights. Justice for war crimes and crimes against humanity is not a dispensable item. We expect nothing less than a strong statement by the Italian government in the very city where the Rome Statute of the ICC was finalized.
Director, International Justice Programme
Cc: Mr. Leonardo Schiavo, Political Advisor to Prime Minister Prodi