The situation in Darfur and the International Criminal Court recommendations at the 4th Session of the Assembly of States Parties

The situation in Darfur and the International Criminal Court

Recommendations at the 4th Session of the Assembly of States Parties

Since April 2003, conflict has raged in Darfur, Sudan in which it is estimated that over 400,000 people have died and over two and a half million have been forced from their homes. Deliberate targeting of civilians and the wholesale destruction of settlements has been a hallmark of the violence, which it has been alleged is disproportionately directed against particular ethnic and tribal groupings. In March 2005, further to the report of a United Nations Commission of Inquiry, the UN Security Council referred the situation in Darfur to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Subsequently on the 6 th of June the ICC Prosecutor announced that “ the statutory requirements for initiating an investigation [had been] satisfied.”

The context within which the ICC investigation is now unfolding is critical to ensuring that the ICC effectively contributes to combating impunity and halting the ongoing violence in Darfur. The Darfur Consortium and the undersigned non-governmental organisations concerned with the situation in Darfur respectfully urge the following:

I. The Prosecutor and Registrar of the ICC must visit Sudan and meet publicly with representatives of the Government of Sudan and civil society: The unique nature of the Darfur situation investigation, triggered by the UN Security Council referral and operating in an environment where there is at once huge expectation, apprehension and misunderstanding about the mandate of the ICC, demands direct and public engagement by senior officers of the Court. The functions and limitations of the Court, and the expected scope and conduct of the investigation in Darfur must be communicated clearly and transparently.

II. The Assembly of State Parties must provide sufficient resources to permit the Court to conduct a strategic communication and outreach campaign in Darfur and Sudan, bolstered by a strong field presence dedicated to public engagement: A sustained information effort by the Court in Sudan is essential in order to clarify the mandate of the ICC investigation in Sudan, rectify misconceptions, manage expectations and describe its relationship to the range of broader accountability and reconciliation efforts which are necessary to achieve justice for Darfur. In addition to fostering an accurate public understanding of the work of the Court, transparency of the process will contribute to the security of victims, witnesses and other interlocutors during the investigative and trial periods.

III. Members of the United Nations must urge the Government of Sudan to cooperate fully with the work of the Court as required by the UN Security Council: Sudan is a signatory to the Rome Statute in addition to being a party to a number of international treaties which require the establishment of processes for investigating and prosecuting serious international crimes. Every effort must be made to ensure that ICC staff is able to enter and operate effectively in Sudan. In addition to encouraging practical cooperation with the Court, States should also urge Sudan to ratify and implement the Rome Statute.

IV. State parties to the Rome Statute which are members of the African Union must support the engagement of the AU with efforts for justice, peace and reconciliation in Darfur: Security Council Resolution 1593 specifically recognises the important role which the African Union (AU) is playing in Darfur, inviting the Court and the AU to discuss “practical arrangements” that would facilitate the work of the Prosecutor and of the Court, “including the possibility of conducting proceedings in the region, which would contribute to regional efforts in the fight against impunity.” No investigation of serious crimes can proceed without security on the ground. Investigation teams must be able to move freely, systems must be set up to ensure the security of witnesses and protection of key forensic evidence. We welcome the news that a cooperation agreement between the AU and the ICC has been negotiated and echo the calls of the Nigeria on behalf of African State parties to the Rome Statute in the General Assembly for it to be signed “as a matter of urgency.”

Signed,

The Darfur Consortium
Action Professionals Association for the People (Ethiopia)
Citizens for Global Solutions
Human Rights First
Human Rights Network Uganda
No Peace Without Justice
Recherches et Documentation Juridiques Africaines
Sudan Organisation Against Torture
Léon Kyaboba Kasobwa, Avocat

Contact information at The Hague (30 November – 3 December):
Adwoa Kufuor, Sudan Organisation Against Torture (SOAT), Tel. +44 781 3186867
John Stompor, Human Rights First, Tel. +1 646 491 3653

The Darfur Consortium is a coalition of more than thirty Africa-based and Africa-focused NGOs dedicated to working together to promote a just, peaceful and sustainable end to the ongoing humanitarian and human rights crisis in Darfur.

Darfur Consortium calls on African States not to pass AU Presidency to Sudan – letter to AU Member States

(BANJUL, November 25, 2005) The Darfur Consortium, a coalition of more than 30 Africa-based and Africa-focused NGOs committed to working for a sustainable solution to the ongoing crisis in Darfur, joined other civil society groups in calling on member states of the Africa Union to reconsider their decision to confer the Presidency of the African Union to Sudan in January.

In a letter issued on the occasion of the 38th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights held in Banjul, The Gambia, the coalition pointed out that the government of Sudan has borne responsibility for serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in Darfur and that the situation in Darfur remains one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

“Conferring the honor of hosting this summit on the Sudanese government under these circumstances would undermine the credibility of the AU,” said Dismas Nkunda, a spokesman of the Darfur Consortium.

Further, the coalition urged African states to oppose the Sudanese bid for the AU Presidency, which will be decided by a final vote at the next Summit. The letter argues that handing over the Presidency to Sudan could put the future of the ongoing Abuja peace talks in serious jeopardy.

The AU Presidency has been playing a key role in steering the talks under the Chairmanship of Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo in Abuja. The Sudanese government, as a party to the conflict, is unable to credibly play such a role. Without competent mediation, the entire peace negotiations might collapse.

Read the full open letter to AU Member States

ENDS