The Work of the International Criminal Court in Darfur
UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL
Statement by HE Ms Philippa King, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations
18 June 2014
I would like to thank the Prosecutor, Mrs Fatou Bensouda, for her briefing, as well as for the continuing efforts of the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) in relation to Darfur. These briefings are an important opportunity to reaffirm that both the International Criminal Court (ICC) and this Council have vital roles in ensuring peace and justice are delivered to the people of the region. We cannot avoid the Prosecutor’s central message in her briefing – that a dramatic shift is needed in this Council’s approach to the level of support it provides to the International Criminal Court’s effort to provide justice and accountability for the people of Darfur.
The Prosecutor’s nineteenth report presents an extremely disturbing picture of the situation in Darfur, and the impact of the ongoing climate of impunity. It draws together what we in this Council have been trying to respond to this year alone in adopting Resolutions 2138 and 2148, namely the serious impact of the deteriorating security situation on the civilian population. We agree with the Prosecutor that there is every reason to be concerned about the trends in violence and the extent of its impact – including widespread sexual violence – which is causing great danger to civilians, and to the peacekeepers and humanitarian workers seeking to help them.
This year alone, several hundred thousand people from Darfur – many of them women and children – have been displaced. This significant displacement reflects the fact that air strikes targeting civilians have reportedly continued despite clear demands from this Council that they cease. The air strikes have also been coupled with the rise of the Rapid Support Forces paramilitary group, which the Prosecutor reports has been involved in attacks against civilians, including attacking and burning villages – and which the Government of Sudan has admitted is affiliated with the Sudanese Armed Forces. Humanitarian access continues to be deliberately restricted.
We are therefore grateful for the OTP’s efforts to continue to monitor the situation in Darfur, despite the significant challenges it faces in conducting meaningful investigations. Accurate information is obviously essential to future accountability processes and to ensure informed Council deliberations. This includes information from UNAMID, of course, so we therefore support the Prosecutor’s call for a thorough, independent and transparent inquiry into allegations that information about crimes committed against civilians and peacekeepers may have been withheld.
We welcome the ICC’s ongoing preparations for the trial of Abdullah Banda, and look forward to the Trial Chamber’s decision on a revised start date. We call on the Sudanese authorities to cooperate with the Court so the OTP can progress other investigations and prosecutions. In particular, Sudanese authorities must arrest and surrender President Al Bashir, Abdel Muhammad Hussein, Ahmad Harun and Ali Kushayb – in line with Sudan’s obligations under Resolution 1593.
It goes without saying that ICC States Parties must also meet their obligations to cooperate with the ICC. We are very disappointed that some States Parties continue to invite President Al-Bashir to visit their countries, and fail to meet their obligation to arrest and surrender him when he does. We welcome the Prosecutor’s call for relevant States Parties to be provided with the necessary support and assistance to ensure that effective arrests and surrenders can be made.
And this Council should at least do the ICC the courtesy of responding to the Court’s eight letters about the failure of some States to cooperate with the ICC in relation to the Darfur referral.
The crimes reported by the Prosecutor are indicative of a pervasive culture of impunity in Darfur, and a systemic failure by the Government of Sudan to pursue accountability – for attacks against civilians, against humanitarian workers and against UNAMID peacekeepers. The Prosecutor is right to remind us that this Council’s repeated demands to the Government of Sudan to end impunity and bring justice and accountability to victims, have gone deliberately unfulfilled. As Mrs Bensouda has told us this morning, the Government of Sudan has failed to provide any meaningful measure of justice at the national level. Those committing the crimes alleged in the Prosecutor’s report must be held to account; and we know this latest report presents only a fraction of what is actually taking place in Darfur. It is unconscionable, when there is an allegation of an attack such as that referenced in paragraph 44 of the Prosecutor’s report, and I quote, “in which militia forces, specifically from the Rapid Support Forces, reportedly gang-raped a ten-year-old girl”, that the Government of Sudan fails to hold such perpetrators to account.
And despite the international community’s efforts to date, the violence in Darfur is only getting worse. Perpetrators of Rome Statute crimes continue to avoid justice, emboldening others to commit similar crimes. Given the failure of the Sudanese authorities to take appropriate action on accountability, the ICC’s efforts to ensure such accountability are critical. It was the Council that referred the situation in Darfur to the ICC, and the Council must shoulder its responsibility to support the Court’s efforts to fulfil its mandate. There is no justification for further delay in this Council taking meaningful steps to support the ICC’s work in Darfur.