In presenting her 31st report on the Darfur situation to the UN Security Council (UNSC) this afternoon, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, was permitted a note of triumph following the arrival in ICC custody yesterday of former Darfur janjaweed leader Ali Kushayb, indicted by the court for crimes against humanity and the first of the Sudanese ICC indictees to be delivered to the court.
Briefing a virtual session of the UNSC (pursuant to Security Council Resolution 1593) via video link in accordance with Covid-19 distancing protocols, Bensouda said that “as the world continues to navigate the uncertain and unprecedented era of the Covid-19 global pandemic, the wheels of justice have continued to turn at the ICC and in my Office in particular.”
Bensouda said her office has maintained “a notable degree of business continuity despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, including the closure of the ICC premises since March.
“As many of you will be aware, yesterday, ICC suspect, Ali Kushayb, was transferred to the custody of the Court, following his surrender. This is a pivotal development in the Darfur situation, especially for those victims who have waited so long for justice.
‘Our commitment to the situation and the victims in the Darfur situation remains unwavering, as is our conviction in the importance of fighting impunity for atrocity crimes’
“I hope that the suspect’s transfer to the court also sends a clear and unequivocal message that no matter how long it takes or the obstacles placed in our path, my office will not stop until the alleged perpetrators of Rome Statute crimes are brought to justice.”
Bensouda highlighted that “while many had either abandoned hope in the situation or actively sought to stifle progress, we maintained our focus and perspective, never giving up on our investigations despite cooperation challenges, and building the necessary networks and partnerships.
“Our commitment to the situation and the victims in the Darfur situation remains unwavering, as is our conviction in the importance of fighting impunity for atrocity crimes. There should be no escape from justice for perpetrators of the world’s most serious crimes under international law.”
‘In particular, we are encouraged by the on-going peace talks in Juba between the government of Sudan and rebel groups, and we urge all parties to stay the course in their quest for durable peace in Sudan’
Bensouda reiterated that all ICC suspects against whom arrest warrants have been issued must face justice, and called on Abdallah Banda and all other ICC suspects who are at large to follow Kushayb’s lead and “surrender to the ICC and answer the charges against them through a fair, objective, and independent judicial process”.
Juba peace talks
Bensouda says her office remains optimistic that the ongoing transitional process in the Republic of Sudan augurs well for prospects to finally achieve justice for Darfur victims. “In particular, we are encouraged by the on-going peace talks in Juba between the government of Sudan and rebel groups, and we urge all parties to stay the course in their quest for durable peace in Sudan.
“We have noted with keen interest, media reports indicating that an agreement was reached with rebel groups, that justice in Darfur requires the appearance of those against whom arrest warrants were issued by the ICC.
“To date, the Court has yet to receive official communication from the government of Sudan relating to any agreements reached in respect of the Court’s pending arrest warrants. At this point in time, my office has not been informed by the competent authorities of Sudan what actions they intend to take in relation to the ICC suspects. As such, I take this opportunity to appeal to this council and through you, to the authorities of the government of Sudan, to intensify dialogue with my office to ensure accountability for the heinous crimes that have taken place in Darfur.”
PM Abdallah Hamdok
Bensouda noted that she placed a courtesy call to Sudan’s Prome Minister Andallah Hamdok concerning yesterday’s transfer of the ICC suspect to the custody of the Court. “I was encouraged by that open and helpful conversation.
“I remain hopeful that a new chapter of constructive ICC-Sudan engagement, rooted in mutual respect and a genuine commitment to bringing justice for the victims of heinous crimes committed in Darfur, may be on the horizon.
"Dialogue between my office and the government of Sudan is imperative.
"Governed by the requirements of the Rome Statute, all ICC Darfur suspects must be brought to justice through genuine proceedings either in a courtroom in Sudan or at the Court in The Hague."
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