Sudan, 29 June 2015 – Over six years since the issuance of the first warrant of arrest against Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) today said that her Office’s determination to bring “independent and impartial justice” to the people of Sudan remains “unshaken”.
“The question we need to ask of ourselves today is whether the people of Darfur, who continue to endure the suffering widely recognized by, amongst others, the African Union (AU), will ever receive the justice they deserve? Will their plight be finally answered through independent and impartial justice, or will their cries continue to face silent inaction?”
Ms. Bensouda’s comments led off her briefing to the Security Council and come amid a worsening security climate and dire humanitarian crisis in the western Sudanese region, with ramped-up hostilities between Government forces and armed movements, deadly inter-communal conflicts and a precipitous rise in criminality and banditry.
This morning, the Security Council decided to extend the African Union-UN Hybrid Operation (UNAMID) mandate for an additional year.
Dismissing “those who have chosen to deliberately distort facts by alleging that the ICC imposed itself on Sudan,” Ms. Bensouda said that efforts of “detractors and naysayers” only serve to strengthen her Office’s resolve.
“Omar Bashir’s rapid departure from South Africa proves that the warrants of arrest against him are as valid as they were when issued; that they remain in full force and effect, and that my Office is committed to ensure they are executed”, she went on to say.
While the Sudanese President may have escaped the law in South Africa through an unanticipated and premature departure from the 24th AU Summit, “the swift judicial action by South African courts we have witnessed is a shining precedent that must be emulated in other States,” the Prosecutor continued.
“More generally, the High Court’s ruling in South Africa has also underlined a growing recognition by domestic courts of states’ obligations to uphold their commitments under international law – in this case, the ICC’s Rome Statute.”
It is “past time” for the Security Council and UN Member States to join forces with the Court and civil society in devising concrete and effective strategies for the arrest of accused persons wanted by the Court, and to give the ICC the full support it requires, Ms. Bensouda stressed.
“I encourage States Parties to plan – ahead – for the arrest of each individual wanted by the Court in a targeted and efficient manner.”
Reminding the Council of the “frequency” and “brutality” of the targeting of civilians, women in particular, the Prosecutor claimed that the people alleged to be most responsible for these ongoing atrocities are “the same people against who warrants of arrest have already been issued.”
She repeated to the Council what she said during her last briefing about the situation in Darfur in December 2014 : that her Office has finite resources and a heavy caseload, and is therefore struggling to commit to full, active investigations of the on-going crimes in Darfur.
“This however, should not in any-way be misconstrued or interpreted to mean that investigations have been closed or that we have abandoned the victims of mass atrocities in Darfur. Far from it”, she insisted.
The ICC Prosecutor called “once again” on the Council to ensure Sudan’s compliance with its resolution 1593 , as well as on States Parties to the Rome Statute to promote cooperation and affect the arrest of individuals wanted by the Court in the Darfur situation.
“If there is no follow-up action on the part of the Security Council, any referral by the Council to the ICC…would never achieve its ultimate goal, namely, to put an end to impunity. Accordingly, any such referral would become futile.”
“There is more that we can and must all do to achieve peace and justice in Darfur. It must be stressed that this Council also has a vital role to play and must do its part.”