ICC prosecutor urges Sudan to hand over war crimes suspects

Outgoing Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda urged Sudanese authorities to transfer Darfur war crime suspects, including the former president, to the ICC.

Fatou Bensouda on Wednesday gave his final briefing at the UN Security Council as chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), saying the tribunal has not yet delivered justice to victims of atrocities in Sudan’s western Darfur region. But, she said, a new era in Sudan and the transfer of the first Darfur suspect to court should give them hope.

Bensouda said he had a message to Darfur victims last week: Sudan’s transitional government should hand over the three suspects demanded by the court who are in its custody – former president Omar al-Bashir, who is accused of genocide; Former Defense Minister Abdel Rahim Hussein, and former Interior Minister and Governor Ahmed Haroon.

Bensouda, whose mandate expires on June 15, said she has focused on Darfur after the crime there was referred to the court by the Security Council in 2005, when she was deputy prosecutor. But his recent visit to Sudan and Darfur was the first – a memorable visit which he said was “a strong reminder that we must focus on achieving justice for the victims and finding lasting peace for the people of Darfur.”

However, Bensouda cautioned that “the road ahead is long and fraught with dangers,” adding that Sudan’s transition to al-Bashir’s coup in April 2019 was followed by mass protests demanding civilian rule. is still in its infancy”.

Still, she said, after years of hostility and no cooperation, “the ICC and the Government of Sudan have turned a new page in their relations” and continue to engage in “constructive dialogue” and “the good spirit of cooperation”.

The vast Darfur region was hit by bloodshed in 2003 when rebels from the region’s ethnic Central and Sub-Saharan African community launched an armed insurgency in Khartoum, accusing the Arab-dominated government of discrimination and neglect.

The government under al-Bashir responded with a scorched-earth attack by aerial bombing and ousting local nomadic Arab militias known as the Popular Defense Forces on the population, resulting in countless reports of mass killings and rapes. Up to 300,000 people were killed and 2.7 million people were expelled from their homes.

legal obligation

Bensouda said he urged al-Bashir and others to be handed over at a meeting with Sudanese government officials, including the head of the sovereignty council, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok.

“Sudan is under a legal obligation to surrender suspects” under a Security Council resolution that referred Darfur to the court, she said.

Aaron, who faces 20 counts of crimes against humanity and 22 counts of war crimes, remains at large. His presence in the court in The Hague is required for the trial to begin.

Bensouda said Harun’s transfer is immediate, so he could be tried along with Sudanese militia leader Ali Kushayb, who voluntarily surrendered at court in The Hague, Netherlands, a year ago. He called on the Security Council to “immediately respect Mr. Haroon’s wishes and to facilitate his transfer to the ICC without delay to dominate Sudan.”

Bensouda, whose mandate expires on 15 June, said it has focused on Darfur since 2005. [File: Bas Czerwinski/Pool via AP]

Richard Dicker, International Justice Director of Human Rights Watch (HRW), said: “The time has passed for Khartoum to honor its responsibility to the victims of Darfur. The surrender of these three suspects represents an indelible commitment to the rule of law. will signal.”

Adam Day, program director at the United Nations University’s Center for Policy Research, who was a political officer with the UN-African Union Peacekeeping Force in Darfur in 2008, said the question now is: “What incentives will the international community give to the new Sudanese government? Hand over the suspects to the ICC? … Will major international donors insist that their support rests on handing over al-Bashir and others?

“As a cash-strapped government desperately needs support, which may point to the balance,” he told the Associated Press.

Eric Reeves, a retired Smith College professor who has worked in Sudan for 22 years and is a trustee of the Darfur Bar Association, said that Bensouda spent all his time trying to prosecute the Darfur cases “and did not succeed.” “.

He said, “She and anyone knows that if the court cannot bring a conviction in the Darfur case, the court may have either completely diminished its relevance or reduced it to such an extent that “If it fails it will be a great failure for international justice.”

The ICC was officially established on 1 July 2002 to hold accountable perpetrators of the world’s most serious crimes – genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity – in cases where an adequate national judicial system is not available.

It has 123 member states, and Bensouda’s staff are currently investigating alleged crimes in 13 other locations ranging from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic and Libya to Bangladesh-Myanmar, Afghanistan and the occupied Palestinian Territories. Darfur was the first referral to the court by the Security Council.

‘Without fear or favor’

The nine Security Council members, who are sides of the court, issued a statement after Wednesday’s meeting, calling for intensive efforts to surrender all suspects, Sudanese authorities and joint efforts to facilitate Bensouda’s visit. Appreciated the nation, and expressed gratitude to the prosecutor for his persistence in fighting the punishment. To pursue international justice “without fear or favour”.

Day of the United Nations University recalled that when Bensouda became prosecutor in 2011, the court faced criticism for its excessive focus on African conflicts, as well as the risk of some African countries withdrawing from the court.

“One of Bensouda’s greatest achievements was actually saving the ICC from that negative trajectory, restoring the legitimacy of the international community,” he said.

Day said, “I think Bensouda has successfully placed Darfur on the agenda of the Security Council, and has made a coherent and well-reasoned argument that peace in Darfur cannot be achieved without meaningful reckoning with past human rights abuses.” can.”

HRW’s Dicker referred to sanctions against Bensouda and another court official by US President Donald Trump in 2020 over a court investigation into alleged war crimes by the US in Afghanistan and US ally Israel in the Palestinian territories. He was removed by the Biden administration on April 2.

“Fatou Bensouda brought a steadfast commitment to defend the independence of his office in the face of unprecedented pressure, aimed at recovering high personal costs,” Dicker said. “Still, she didn’t budge. This prosecutor’s legacy is fundamental to the legitimacy of the court.”


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