The Darfur Relief and Documentation Centre (DRDC) has issued a statement “noting with satisfaction the decision adopted by the US Administration on 11 July 2017 to extend the review period accorded to the Government of Sudan until 12 October 2017 before lifting the economic sanctions maintained by successive US Administrations on Sudan during the last 20 years.”
The statement by the Geneva-based NGO, established in 2004 with the view to injecting an independent and impartial civil society perspective for a peaceful resolution of armed conflicts in Darfur, says that “it is worth mentioning that the USA has imposed unilateral economic sanctions regime on Sudan in 1997 and it had been further strengthened in 2006 due to the criminal responsibility of Government of Sudan for massive violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Darfur.
“In this decision, the US Administration outlined that it needed more review time to establish Government of Sudan’s commitment to sustained positive actions on matters listed in Executive Order 13761 issued by former US President Barak Obama on 13 January 2017. These matters, include reducing offensive military activity culminating in cessation of hostilities in conflict areas; improving humanitarian access throughout Sudan; and maintaining cooperation with the USA on regional conflicts and the threat of terrorism.
“DRDC welcomes the US Administration’s commitment to intensify engagement with Government of Sudan on issues of our special concern i.e. the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms, particularly religious and media freedoms, justice, the rule of law and combating impunity as well as the rights of women and children, which should be an integral part of future deals.
Reduced military activity
“On the questions of reduced military activity and maintaining cessation of hostilities in conflict areas and improved humanitarian access, DRDC believes that any positive progress reported in recent months is patchy and does not fully reflect the reality on the ground. Military confrontations between Government of Sudan and the Darfur insurgent movements as well as the ongoing acts of violence and forced displacement of thousands of civilians in Darfur in May and June 2017 represent serious violations of the existing unilateral ceasefire arrangement.
“The humanitarian situation, especially in regions affected by the armed conflict such as Darfur, the Nuba Mountains and the Blue Nile is unbearable. All the major international relief organizations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, are not allowed to work in Sudan. Government of Sudan forced UN relief agencies to maintain minimum presence and to reduce the humanitarian assistance daily rations provided to the needy populations to scandalous levels.
DRDC believes that the precarious security situation and the absence of meaningful prospect for a negotiated, just and durable settlement of the armed conflicts in Darfur, the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile are strong raisons for increased external pressure of all sorts to persuade Government of Sudan to put a halt to its warmongering policies and political unrest in the country in all their forms and manifestations. DRDC further believes that peace in Sudan as well as addressing the humanitarian situation are better served through an overall process of political transformation that values good governance, a culture of peace and tolerance and embraces Sudan in its multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious realities.
In a separate statement, the DRDC welcomes the decision adopted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on 6 July 2017 under article 87 (7) of the Rome Statute of the ICC on the non-compliance of the Republic of South Africa with the ICC’s request to arrest and surrender General Omar Al-Bashir while he was on South African territory between 13 and 15 June 2015. It is disappointing that the ICC found that South Africa has indeed been in breach of its obligations under the Rome Statute of the ICC by refusing to honour the ICC request to apprehend and surrender General Omar Al-Bashir.
“DRDC believes that since the ICC’s seizure of the situation in Darfur has been based on the United Nations’ Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1593 (2005) of 31 March 2005, adopted under the mandatory Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the ICC has, in fact, been exercising its jurisdiction under article 13(2) of the Rome Statute and acting as a mechanism for implementation of a binding UNSC resolution. By non-compliance with the ICC request, South Africa has thus breached its obligations under the Charter of the United Nations Organisation. Equally significant is the 12th July 2010 decision of Pre-Trial Chamber I of the ICC which found reasonable ground to believe that acts of genocide were committed in Darfur and consequently issued an arrest warrant against General Omar Al-Bashir for his criminal responsibility under article 25(3)(a) of the Rome Statute.
“Both Sudan and South Africa are Contracting Parties to the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Genocide Convention), since 11 January 2004 and10 March 1999 respectively. Article VI of the Genocide Convention states that: “Persons charged with genocide … shall be tried by a competent tribunal of the State in the territory of which the act was committed, or by such international penal tribunal as may have jurisdiction with respect to those Contracting Parties which shall have accepted its jurisdiction.” By refusing to arrest General Al-Bashir to the ICC, South Africa equally violated its obligations under the Genocide Convention. South Africa serial violations of its international obligations cast doubts about its commitment to combat impunity and uphold the rule of law in Africa,” the statement reads.
“However, DRDC disagrees with the ICC decision to decline referring the Republic of South Africa to the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute or to the UNSC for non-compliance with its request to arrest and surrender General Al Bashir. The ultimate objective for the ICC is to see to it that fundamental justice is done to the victims without any other considerations. DRDC recommends that the ICC’s decision to withhold further action against South Africa should not be considered an international legal precedent in any future considerations of such a situation.