Fatou Bensouda: ‘Work of ICC for international justice will continue without pause’
The work of her office on behalf of international justice, and by extension, sustainable peace, will continue without pause, Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague has assured the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Bensouda gave a valedictory statement after presenting the 33rd report of her office on the situation in Darfur to the UNSC via video link today.
Bensouda thanked the UNSC for its support, saying that during her nine-year term. “we have stayed the course and have tried to bring to life the goals and values of the Rome Statute”, adding: “I gave it my best shot”, empowered by my dedicated team across my Office. I seize the opportunity to salute them here.
“The work of the office on behalf of international justice, and by extension, sustainable peace, will continue without pause… I truly believe that together, with the support of the international community and this august body, a more secure and just future for all is attainable. It merely takes the trinity of courage, leadership, and genuine conviction in higher ideals.”
Bensouda underscored the important role of the UNSC “in the fight against impunity for atrocity crimes in close cooperation with the ICC. I can only encourage continued engagement and cooperation between two institutions so crucial to a rules-based international system and the cause of peaceful settlement of disputes.”
In her main statement, Bensouda asserted that “the Situation in Darfur is a clear demonstration of how the framers of the Rome Statute system envisaged the ICC and this Council to work together towards the twin goals of justice and peace. When this Council referred the Darfur situation to the ICC in March 2005, it brought hope to victims of atrocity crimes in Darfur by sending a clear message that justice was not only important in its own right but also with a multiplier effect on achieving sustainable peace in Darfur.
‘Over the years since the referral, hope has seen its ups and downs, but the people of Darfur never gave up…’
“Over the years since the referral, that hope has seen its ups and downs, but the people of Darfur never gave up. I recall the countless times that I appealed for help from this Council for investigations in Darfur; I recall the number of times that I pleaded with the Assembly of States Parties to allocate sufficient resources to effectively investigate the Situation in Darfur; I can recall the number of times that the office and I were ridiculed and labelled as biased and that our investigations were targeted to specific individuals.”
‘Witnessing countless women, men, and children lined up in the dusty streets, in the blazing hot sun, to welcome me and my delegation, calling for justice and the surrender of those indicted by the ICC was one of the most moving and humbling experience of my life’
Bensouda said that her visit to Darfur last week “opened my eyes even more to the reality of what we and the people of Darfur have been fighting for over the years. Indeed, the visit was a vivid reminder of the raison d’être of this institution... Witnessing countless women, men and children lined up in the dusty streets, in the blazing hot sun, to welcome me and my delegation, calling for justice and the surrender of those indicted by the ICC was one of the most moving and humbling experience of my life. The images of this visit will remain written in indelible ink in my memories. For those who saw these images, I hope they serve as a strong reminder that we should stay focussed on achieving justice for the victims and finding lasting peace for the people of Darfur.
“The reality of Darfur victims hit me even harder as I engaged with victims, internally displaced persons’ leaders and local officials and listened to victims’ harrowing stories of the brutality they have endured and the inhumane conditions under which they continue to live. This first ever visit of the ICC to Darfur in more than 15 years since this Council referred the Darfur situation to my Office has rekindled the hope of Resolution 1593. We cannot allow that rekindled light to be extinguished again through our inaction or half-hearted, ineffective action.”
Bensouda acknowledged that her visit to Darfur would not have been possible without the assistance and cooperation of the Government of Sudan. “I am grateful for all the support extended to me and my delegation and the effective facilitation of my visit.
‘I am pleased to report that the ICC and the Government of Sudan have turned a new page in their relationship’
“I am pleased to report that the ICC and the Government of Sudan have turned a new page in their relationship. The old days of hostilities and non-cooperation have been replaced by constructive dialogue and good spirit of cooperation. Following the conclusion of a Memorandum of Understanding between my Office and the Government of Sudan on 14 February, my team of investigators have undertaken investigative activities in Sudan and have begun to prepare to go to Darfur soon. They have constructively engaged with relevant government ministries including the Office of the Attorney General.”
She also highlighted that between 24 and 26 May 2021, Pre-Trial Chamber II convened the confirmation of charges hearing for Mr Abd-Al-Rahman. “During this hearing, the Office presented evidence in order to demonstrate that there are substantial grounds to believe that Mr Abd-Al-Rahman was responsible for all 31 counts charged in relation to crimes alleged to have been committed in Kodoom, Bindisi, Mukjar, Deleig and surrounding areas between August 2003 and March 2004.
“Having worked on this Situation since 2005, it was gratifying for me personally, for my team and above all, for Darfur victims, to finally see one of the Darfur suspects in the dock to answer for his alleged crimes.”
She also underlined that “Darfur victims continue to have hope in us. We must heed their clarion call for the surrender of those wanted by the ICC to face independent, impartial, and fair judicial process that respects all their rights much as the alleged perpetrators themselves denied rights to the people of Darfur over the years.
'Even as we applaud the new era of Sudan, we are reminded that the road ahead remains long and fraught with dangers'
“Even as we applaud the new era of Sudan, we are reminded that the road ahead remains long and fraught with dangers. We are all aware that the transition in Sudan is still in its infancy and needs nurturing to mature. We can thus not be lulled into a false sense of security. Today, peace and justice continues to elude the people of Darfur. They continue to suffer in IDP camps and for them accountability remains critical for lasting peace in the Darfur region.
“The clear and consistent message I received from Darfur victims in El Fasher, Nyala and Zalingei is that the four outstanding warrants must be executed and that suspects must be handed over to the ICC. I have communicated and stressed this message in my interactions with the Government of Sudan officials at all levels including with the Chairperson of the Sovereignty Council, the Prime Minister as well as other members of the Sovereignty Council during my visit.”
Today’s briefing was Bensouda’s last in her capacity as ICC Prosecutor, as her nine-year term expires on June 16. She will be replaced by British lawyer Karim Ahmed Khan. Khan was elected as the new Chief Prosecutor of the ICC in February and is set to succeed Bensouda for the next nine-year term.
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