(New York) - The UN Security Council's presidential statement criticizing Sudan's failure to cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC) signals international impatience with impunity for Darfur war crimes suspects, Human Rights Watch said today. The presidential statement, issued this morning, is the first time that the Security Council has formally taken action on Sudan's failure to comply with the ICC arrest warrants for two Sudanese suspects.

"The unanimous Security Council statement sends the message that Khartoum cannot obstruct justice by recycling unkept promises to accept peacekeepers," said Richard Dicker, director of Human Rights Watch's International Justice Program. "Sudan must take real action on both justice and peacekeeping."

The Security Council statement notes the transmission of the arrest warrants to the government of Sudan one year ago and "urges the Government of Sudan and all other parties to the conflict in Darfur to cooperate fully with the Court, consistent with resolution 1593 (2005), in order to put an end to impunity for the crimes committed in Darfur." The statement was adopted under the US presidency of the council.

On June 5, International Criminal Court Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo briefed the Security Council on Sudan's defiance of two arrest warrants that resulted from resolution 1593, which referred the situation in Darfur to the ICC prosecutor. Since then, Security Council members have been discussing a presidential statement introduced by Costa Rica, which joined the council in January. When the prosecutor last reported on Sudan's non-cooperation in December, the council was unable to agree on a statement because of opposition from China.

Moreno Ocampo's June 5 report highlighted Sudan's continuing failure to arrest and surrender government official Ahmed Haroun and militia leader Ali Kosheib, who were charged in the court's April 2007 arrest warrants with crimes against humanity and war crimes. He called on the Security Council to send a strong unified message to Khartoum that it is obliged to comply with Security Council resolution 1593 and to arrest the suspects.

The Security Council recently returned from a June 4-5 visit to Khartoum. Unlike its 2007 mission to Sudan, the Security Council's terms of reference for this trip included cooperation with the ICC arrest warrants, and the council raised Sudan's blatant noncompliance with the ICC with Sudanese officials, including President Omar El Bashir.

"The Security Council has put justice for the people of Darfur back on the table," Dicker said. "The Sudanese authorities need to get - and act on - the message that it is past time to arrest Haroun and Kosheib and to hand them over to the ICC."

In their comments following the prosecutor's briefing, a clear majority of council members made strong interventions supporting a presidential statement. In a forceful intervention at the start of the debate, Costa Rica's foreign minister, Bruno Stagno Ugarte, invoked the ghosts of Security Council missteps in Rwanda and Srebrenica to encourage the council to act.

The Security Council referred the situation in Darfur to the ICC prosecutor on March 31, 2005. On April 27, 2007, the court issued the first two arrest warrants for "Janjaweed" militia leader Ali Kosheib and Sudanese State Minister of Humanitarian Affairs Ahmed Haroun for 51 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. In his three regular reports to the Security Council since then, the prosecutor has informed the council of Sudan's refusal to cooperate with the ICC.

"Costa Rica provided invaluable leadership," Dicker said. "We also welcome the role played by the US government as Security Council president. This support for justice marks a further break from Washington's previously ill-conceived and highly ideological opposition to the ICC."