The Security Council’s referral of the situation in Darfur on March 31, 2005 to the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor was a bright spot in international efforts to address the crisis in Darfur. The referral gave hope to victims in the region who have suffered so much and signaled a commitment to ending impunity for the most serious international crimes.
Now, seven months after the International Criminal Court issued the first two arrest warrants, the Security Council's commitment to justice for the victims in Darfur will be put to the test. We expect that the ICC prosecutor will report to the Council on December 5 what has been evident over the past several months: the government of Sudan is flouting its obligation to cooperate with the court as required by the Security Council Resolution 1593.
On April 27, the court issued arrest warrants for Ahmed Haroun and "Ali Kosheib" (the nom de guerre of Ali Mohammed Ali) on 51 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for their leading roles in a series of attacks against civilians in West Darfur in 2003 and 2004. The charges include counts for murders, persecution, rape, attacks and forcible displacement. Ahmed Haroun, currently state minister of humanitarian affairs, has recently been appointed by Khartoum to co-chair a committee that has a mandate to hear complaints of human rights abuses in Darfur. Ali Kosheib, a top Janjaweed leader, was in Sudanese custody on other charges at the time that the warrants were issued but has recently been released.
Sudan has had seven months to take steps to surrender the suspects. The Sudanese government has openly indicated its refusal to surrender the suspects on more than one occasion. For instance, in response to news that the prosecutor was seeking summonses, the Justice Minister suspended cooperation with the court and called the notion of Sudanese citizens being tried by the ICC "absolutely nonsensical." Sudan is also not making any effort to conduct prosecutions of these accused at the national level.
The ICC prosecutor's upcoming briefing marks the first time that the Security Council will hear a report that the government of Sudan is not complying with its obligation to cooperate with the court. It is crucial that the Security Council speak out in support of the prosecutor. The failure to do so risks betraying the Council's commitment to the people of Darfur. It also risks making a mockery of the Council's resolve on justice more generally. Recent experience on the deployment of the AU-UN force has shown that soft-pedaling difficult issues to placate Khartoum does not yield the desired results.
We believe that it is crucial for the Security Council to take initial steps in calling on Sudan to fulfill its duties according to Resolution 1593. This could include a Presidential Statement. The Council should further demonstrate its commitment to this issue by sending a mission to Sudan for the express purpose of assessing Sudan's cooperation with the court.
We urge your government to take strong supportive steps in response to the prosecutor's report. Anything less would be abandoning the people of Darfur and the highest principles of the United Nations.
International Justice Program Director
UN Advocacy Director