The International Criminal Court's prosecutor announced on Friday that she has stopped the investigation into war crimes in the Darfur region, for lack of action by the United Nations Security Council to push for arrests. The allegations of a mass rape in North Darfur should “shock this council into action”, she said.
“It is becoming increasingly difficult for me to appear before you and purport to be updating you when all I am doing is repeating the same things I have said over and over again,” ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told the UN council in her twentieth briefing on Darfur.
The Hague-based court indicted Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir in 2009 for five counts of crimes against humanity and two counts of war crimes, and in 2010, for three counts of genocide. It has also charged Defence Minister Abdelrahim Hussein, former Interior Minister Ahmed Haroun, who is currently Governor of North Kordofan, and janjaweed militia leader Ali Kushayb. None have been arrested.
Al Bashir has traveled freely to some African countries that are parties to the statute that created the ICC but have refused to arrest him as required, including Chad and Nigeria.
“Given this council’s lack of foresight on what should happen in Darfur, I am left with no choice but to hibernate investigative activities in Darfur as I shift resources to other urgent cases,” Bensouda said.
"Women and girls continue to bear the brunt of sustained attacks on innocent civilians," the prosecutor said. "Victims of rapes are asking themselves how many more women should be brutally attacked for this council to appreciate the magnitude of their plight."
She told the Security Council that the allegations of a mass rape of 200 women and girls in Tabit, North Darfur, on 31 October, should have shocked them “into action”.
Bensouda's decision comes one week after she received a letter from Aicha Elbasri, urging the Hague-based court to form an independent inquiry commission into the cover-ups of the UN-AU hybrid peacekeeping mission on attacks against civilians and peacekeepers in Darfur, which she reported this year.
Al Bashir's 'blatant disregard'
In her most recent reports on the situation in Darfur, Bensouda berated the UN Security Council for its “inaction and paralysis” concerning the arrest of the Sudanese President. She called it a “serious indictment on this Security Council” that Al Bashir and others have shown “blatant disregard” for the Council’s resolutions in December 2013.
After a symposium on women's rights in Washington in October, Bensouda told Radio Afia Darfur in an interview that the ICC will continue to cooperate with the people of Darfur to ensure that justice will be achieved in the end. “The nomination of President Omar Al Bashir as candidate for the April 20-15 general elections will not relieve him of his indictment by the ICC.” She urged all signatories of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court to comply with their obligations towards the Court, arrest the indicted Sudanese officials, and hand them over to the ICC.
Al Bashir faces ten counts on the basis of his individual criminal responsibility under Article 25(3)(a) of the Rome Statute as an indirect (co) perpetrator, including five counts of crimes against humanity, two counts of war crimes, and three counts of genocide.
File photo: ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda addresses the UN Security Council on 12 December 2014 (UN)
Elbasri pushes ICC for probe into alleged Unamid cover-up (5 December 2014)
ICC berates UN for 'inaction and paralysis' on Sudan's President Al Bashir (12 December 2014)