International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on Monday urged the UN Security Council (UNSC) to take action “to ensure justice for the long-suffering victims of atrocity crimes”.
“It is past time for this Council and States to join forces with the Court and civil society in devising concrete and effective strategies for the arrest of accused persons wanted by the Court, and to give the ICC the full support it requires and is entitled to, in order to implement the Rome Statute as intended,” Bensouda said.
“I encourage States Parties to plan – ahead – for the arrest of each individual wanted by the Court in a targeted and efficient manner. The longer such persons remain at large, the greater the risk that further atrocities will be committed, contributing to instability and insecurity.
“It is long overdue for you to heed the cries of the victims of rape and sexual abuse, torture, mass displacement, and other inhumane suffering the Darfuris continue to endure. [..] Innocent civilians continue to bear the brunt of insecurity and instability, in particular as a result of what appears to be an ongoing government campaign to target them.
“The people alleged to be most responsible for these ongoing atrocities are the same people against whom warrants of arrest have already been issued,” she stressed.
The Hague-based court issued an arrest warrant for President Omar Al Bashir, who was accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity in March 2009 and of genocide in July 2010 in Darfur. Yet Al Bashir, who rejects the court's authority, has travelled within Africa and to Saudi Arabia without being apprehended.
The prosecutor said the ICC had made ten referrals to the Security Council for non-compliance, including Sudan, Chad, Kenya, Djibouti, Malawi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, but the 15-member Council has not responded to any of them.
Former Defence Minister Abdelrahim Hussein, now governor of Khartoum state, former Interior Minister Ahmed Haroun, currently governor of North Kordofan, and Janjaweed militia leader Ali Kushayb have also been charged by the ICC.
UNSC action is seen as unlikely, because veto-wielding member China traditionally acts as Khartoum's protector. China abstained on the Council vote in 2005 that authorised the ICC to investigate Darfur, and has said it has "serious reservations" about the charges against Al Bashir.
Earlier this month, Al Bashir travelled to South Africa for an AU summit. A Pretoria court had issued an order banning him from leaving the country until the end of a hearing on whether he should be detained under a global arrest warrant. Yet the South African authorities allowed the Sudanese president to leave the country.
Al Bashir's “hasty retreats in Kenya, Nigeria and now South Africa are also largely due to the vigilance and tireless efforts of civil society,” Bensouda said. “The courage and commitment of civil society are to be commended.”
The ICC prosecutor pointed to her former report of December, in which she announced that active investigations into further crimes in Darfur would be limited, “given the Council's failure to act decisively on numerous acts of defiance of its Resolutions by the Government of Sudan”.
She stressed however that her “Office's determination to bring independent and impartial justice to the people of Sudan remains unshaken. Efforts of detractors and naysayers only serve to strengthen our resolve, and spur us to double our efforts in this regard.”
(Reuters, ICC statement of 29 June 2015 transcript)