Statement on the presentation of evidence by the Office of the Prosecutor to the International Criminal Court

(February 28, 2007) We, the undersigned international, African, and Sudanese NGOs, journalists, and lawyers, welcome yesterday’s presentation of evidence by the International Criminal Court’s Prosecutor to the Court’s judges as an important step forward in combating impunity and building the rule of law in Sudan.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is the first and only permanent and independent international institution with jurisdiction over the most serious international crimes: crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide. The Court will, however, only become involved where national jurisdictions are unwilling or unable to effectively prosecute perpetrators of these grave crimes. Encouraging the strengthening of national systems through the operation the Court has been a fundamental goal of the Court from its inception.

To date the Sudanese government has failed to stop the commission of severe violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in Darfur and has not effectively prosecuted those responsible. We therefore welcome the efforts of the international community to promote the vital process of accountability in Sudan through support for the ICC. We also call on the people and the government of Sudan to ensure that the Sudanese judiciary and Sudanese criminal justice system fulfill their primary responsibility to pursue accountability for international crimes committed within Sudan’s territory. We urge the Sudanese authorities to see cooperation with the Court as part of this responsibility—as well as its obligations under international law. Sudan is a signatory to the Rome Statute establishing the ICC and is therefore bound to refrain from actions which undermine the object and purpose of the treaty—which includes any effort to undermine the Court’s ongoing activities.

As the first steps in the first prosecutions in the ICC Darfur referral get underway, we call upon the international community to take commensurate responsibility for the protection of victims and witnesses who will contribute to the trial process. Although the primary responsibility for the protection of civilians in its territory rests with Sudan, the announcement of charges against particular individuals may create unique threats. The international community should stand ready to provide all necessary assistance to those persons who require international protection.

Although the evidence presented today relate to events which unfolded in Kodoom, Bindisi, Mukjar, and Arawala, we remind the Court, the Government of Sudan and the international community that crimes which come under the jurisdiction of the ICC continue to be committed daily in Darfur. The violence and the violations have now spread to Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR)—both State parties to the Court’s Statute. We urge the Court to continue to monitor the situation in Darfur, related violence in Chad and CAR and conduct additional investigations and bring appropriate cases before its judges as appropriate.

Today’s announcement is a watershed moment for justice in Darfur, and Sudan as a whole. It is also the beginning of a long process of building accountability, security, and ultimately, reconciliation, for the people of Sudan, a task which will require the support of many actors. We call on the Government of Sudan and other governments in a position to assist to fully cooperate with the Court. We call on civil society inside and outside Sudan to support the process of justice both through the Court and more broadly throughout Sudan. And finally we call on the Court itself to ensure that its proceedings are fair and impartial and bring to justice those most responsible for international crimes in Darfur.

Achieng Akena, Lawyer, Kenya/Uganda
Africa Women’s Development and Communications Network (FEMNET)
Amel Gorani, individual activist
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Egypt
Chidi Odinkalu, lawyer, Nigeria
Citizens for Global Solutions, USA
The Darfur Alert Coalition
The Darfur Consortium
Darfur Relief and Documentation Centre (DRDC), Switzerland
Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA)
International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI), Uganda/USA
Maxwell Kadiri, Lawyer, Nigeria
Prof. Tunde Makaju, President, National Association of Seadogs, Nigeria
Rotimi Sankore, Coordinator, Coordinator Centre for Research Education and Development of Rights in Africa [CREDO-Africa]
Salih Mahmood Osman, Human Rights Lawyer and MP from Sudan
Sisters Arabic Forum for Human Rights, Yemen
Socio-Economic Rights & Accountability Project (SERAP), Nigeria
Sudan Organisation Against Torture (SOAT), Sudan/UK
Sudanese General Council For the Trade Union Federation
Sudanese Women Rights Groups