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ICC Prosecutor: 'Time is running out' to interview Darfur witnesses

December 11 - 2020 THE HAGUE
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Fatou Bensouda presents her Office’s report on the Situation in Darfur to the UN Security Council remotely online (ICC)
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Fatou Bensouda presents her Office’s report on the Situation in Darfur to the UN Security Council remotely online (ICC)

The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, expressed her concern over a lack of communication from the Sudanese government on Thursday, after her office requested the Pre-Trial Chamber to further postpone the confirmation hearing of the case of Ali Abdelrahman 'Kushayb' from February 22 to May 31, 2021.

As the defence is yet to respond to Bensouda’s request, the Pre-Trial Chamber will decide on the request in due course, she told the United Nations Security Council during her 32nd report regarding the situation in Darfur pursuant to Resolution 1593.

She expressed her concerns about the possibility of collecting information and evidence related to the ICC case on Kushayb before his hearing, explaining that “time is running out.”

She said that if no date has been set for investigators to visit Sudan to collect the information, her office will lose the opportunity to deal with victims and witnesses to crimes allegedly committed during attacks against civilians between August 2003 and March 2004.

Bensouda stressed the urgent need for the access of investigators to all parts of Sudan, and the imperative and importance of time to meet court deadlines during her visit to Sudan in October. During her address to the Security Council, she said that Sudanese officials confirmed their commitment to achieving justice, demanding that commitment to concrete action be accompanied by empowering investigators to deal with victims promptly and without hindrance. .

She requested that the Council plays its role to encourage the Government of Sudan to cooperate with the ICC on outstanding warrants. “To date, my Office has not received any official confirmation by the competent authorities of Sudan on what actions they intend to take in relation to the remaining ICC suspects, who, with the exception of Abdallah Banda Abakaer Nourain, are reportedly in their custody.” She noted the repeated allegations of attacks on civilians in June and July, expressing concern over the continuous reports of sexual and gender-based violence and crimes against children.

“We must ensure, with full respect for the principle of complementarity, that all the ICC suspects are brought to justice through fair, objective and independent proceedings, either before the Court, or in Sudanese courts, guided by the requirements of the Rome Statute.”

Bensouda welcomed the Juba Peace Agreement, signed on October 3 by the Sudanese government, the Sudan Revolutionary Front rebel alliance, and other rebel movements. She commended the parties' agreement to create a Special Court for Darfur Crimes and a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. “I also welcome the importance the Juba Peace Agreement affords to the ICC, and the emphasis placed on cooperation between Sudan and the Court in relation to the five ICC suspects.”

She said that her visit to Sudan represented an opportunity for discussions about possible mechanisms to bring suspects to court. She welcomed the assurances she received from officials to provide support, cooperation, and commitment to bringing justice, and expressed her hope that the memorandum of understanding on mechanisms for bringing suspects submitted by the Attorney General's office would be completed as soon as possible, stating that the office is awaiting the government's opinion.

The next report to the Security Council will be presented in June 2021 and will most likely be the last report during Bensouda's time in office. She expressed her hope to be able to visit Darfur before June, to engage with victims and pay personal tribute to the “courage, resilience and patience they have demonstrated” since the ICC opened the case 15 years ago.

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