His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
Re: Tomorrow’s meeting with Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir
In advance of your meeting with President Omar al-Bashir, Human Rights Watch wishes to draw your attention to our concerns about lack of accountability for the atrocities in Darfur. In particular we call on you to raise with President Bashir Sudan's obligation to fully cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC) and execute arrest warrants issued by the court.
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 a suspected 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.
We urge you to use your good offices to call on President Bashir to cooperate with the International Criminal Court and surrender the accused to The Hague. In addition, we ask that you urge Sudan to act to reform its own judicial system to strengthen its capacity to try cases in national courts.
Director, International Justice Programme