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Darfur victims begin to give up on the ICC

November 11 - 2015 THE HAGUE
ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda addresses the UN Security Council on 12 December 2014 (UN)
ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda addresses the UN Security Council on 12 December 2014 (UN)

Nearly one year after International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced the freezing of the Court’s investigations in Darfur, a number of victims have decided to do the same.

In a motion filed by their legal representative on 19 October, eight Darfur victims notified the ICC of their intention to withdraw from the case against President Omar Al Bashir.

The judge of ICC Pre-Trial Chamber I granted eight victims (“the Participants”) the right to participate in the pre-trial stage of the case against Omar Al Bashir in December 2009.

“In light of the inability to advance the prosecution of the Al Bashir case since 2009 and in light of the Prosecutor’s decision to suspend “active” investigations into the Darfur situation in late 2014, the Legal Representative has reached a confidential settlement agreement in the interests of the Participants,” the motion reads.

In the circumstances, the eight victims “will seek no further role in the Al Bashir case nor, for that matter, in the Darfur situation. Without waiving any right to protection and to confidentiality of their identity, the Participants will not object to the removal of their participatory rights in the case against Omar Hassan Ahmed Al Bashir”.

Freezing of investigations

When ICC Prosecutor Bensouda announced the suspension of the investigation into war crimes in Darfur on 12 December last year, for a lack of action by the UN Security Council (UNSC), she stressed that this does not mean that the prosecutor's office has abandoned the Darfur case.

She berated the Security Council for its “inaction and paralysis” concerning the arrest of the Sudanese president, and told its members that the allegations of a mass rape of more than 200 women and girls in Tabit, North Darfur, in October that year should have shocked them “into action”.

A group of 78 Sudanese and international humanitarian and human rights organisations sent a letter of concern to the president of the UNSC in March, demanding the Council actively pursue the arrest of the Sudanese war criminals. 

In an interview with Radio Dabanga that month, Bensouda said that the prospects of arrest of the four Sudanese suspects were bleak. “Also the UNSC, who referred the case to us, have themselves shown to be uncommitted to take any action to arrest.” She added that her office was left with no choice but to freeze investigations, also because its investigative resources were already overstretched. 

Arrest warrants

The ICC issued arrest warrants against former Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, Ahmed Haroun, who is currently Governor of North Kordofan, and former Janjaweed leader Ali 'Kushayb' in 2007 for numerous counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

In 2009, the court issued a first arrest warrant against President Omar Al Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity, and a year later a second one for genocide committed against the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa tribes. An arrest warrant against former Minister of Interior Affairs, Abdelrahim Hussein, currently Governor of Khartoum state, was issued in 2012 for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Darfur.

In October, the ICC asked India to arrest and hand over the indicted president who visited the India-Africa Summit in New Delhi. “Although India is not an ICC signatory, New Delhi should act and arrest him, because the UN Security Council has lifted Al Bashir’s immunity under international law and urged all states to fully cooperate with the ICC,” Bensouda said at the time.

Al Bashir visited South Africa, a signatory to the ICC, in June this year. South Africa and its president, Jacob Zuma, were fiercely criticised for allowing Al Bashir to leave the country after his visit to an AU summit in Johannesburg, defying a ruling by its own High Court ordering his detention.

(Source: Courtside Justice)

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