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ICC prosecutor deals with chemical weapons claim in Sudan

December 13 - 2016 NEW YORK
Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in the Hague, the Netherlands, Fatou Bensouda (file photo)
Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in the Hague, the Netherlands, Fatou Bensouda (file photo)

The International Criminal Court's prosecutor researches claims of Khartoum's deployment of chemical weapons against civilians in Darfur, while accusing the UN Security Council of failing to hold Members of State accountable for refusing to arrest Sudanese war crimes suspects.

In a periodic briefing on the Darfur file ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda presented the twenty-fourth report of the prosecutor's office to the Security Council on Tuesday. She accused the council of failing to take “swift and concrete action” against countries refusing to arrest Sudan's president, and others accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur.

Her report particularly mentions the allegations of the use of chemical weapons by the Sudanese government in Darfur's Jebel Marra during 2016, and the (unconfirmed) death of more than 200 civilians.

“My Office is taking the steps it can to verify whether the allegations are true. I note that the Government of Sudan has denied the claims, and to date, both the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and Unamid have not come across evidence that supports the claims. However, it must also be noted that the Government of Sudan severely restricts access of Unamid and other organisations to the Jebel Marra region. ”

Bensouda commented  that this access denial to her office, and to the UN, the AU, and humanitarian actors “prevents aid getting to the victims and internally displaced, and potentially enables the parties to the conflict to cover up crimes”.

On 27 September, Amnesty International reported that at least 30 likely chemical attacks have taken place in the Jebel Marra area since January 2016. Khartoum has denied the claims, which are based on testimonies from caregivers and survivors. Estimates are that between 200 and 250 people, many being children, may have died as a result of exposure to the chemical weapons agents.

Al Bashir's travels: Fourteen visits to ICC Member States, 131 crossings of international borders, zero arrests

Non-cooperation of State Parties

In the update on the prosecutor's judicial activities, Fatou Bensouda criticised the Security Council that President Omar Al Bashir, who remains wanted for crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide in Darfur, has crossed international borders 131 times since March 2009. This includes fourteen visits to countries that are members of the International Criminal Court and are required to carry out the international arrest warrants.

She said that the ICC Pre-trial Chamber has issued thirteen decisions against ICC members who do not comply with the action they are ought to take, to arrest the Sudanese President and hand him to the court. He and the three other Sudanese ICC suspects can be arrested “if the political will exists among states, and indeed this council”, Bensouda said.

Most recently the ICC reported Djibouti and Uganda to the UNSC for failing to arrest the indicted president. In the past, Al Bashir was able to travel to Indonesia, India, and China. Only in South Africa he narrowly escaped an arrest order by the country's provincial court in June 2015. 

The twenty-fourth report of the Prosecutor of the ICC to the Security Council, 13 December 2016

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