Darfur Consortium welcomes ICC Prosecutor’s UN Security Council report

(KAMPALA and NEW YORK , June 29, 2005 ) The Darfur Consortium today welcomed the delivery of the historic first report to the UN Security Council on the commencement of investigations into the situation in Darfur , Sudan by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Consortium urged that states fully cooperate with the Court in this new phase of the process.

“The referral of the situation in Darfur to the ICC in March by the Security Council was a vital act of solidarity with the people of Darfur ,” said Dismas Nkunda, a spokesperson for the Consortium.

“The victims of Darfur atrocities now need to see active cooperation by states with the investigation, alongside support by the Security Council for the creation of a secure environment in Darfur within which justice can be effectively pursued.”

Cooperation with the ICC process

The Darfur Consortium was encouraged by today’s statement by a representative of the Government of Sudan at the Security Council meeting that it will allow the ICC Prosecutor and his team access to the territory of Sudan.

In particular the Consortium welcomed Sudan ’s invitation to the ICC Prosecutor to follow the work of a new Special Court for the prosecution of events in Darfur . The Court was established by the Government of Sudan by order on June 7 th, just days following the Prosecutor’s decision to initiate his investigation.

While acknowledging that creation of the new Special Court constitutes recognition by Sudan that reform of the justice system is necessary in order to ensure accountability, the Consortium is concerned that the new Court may not be able to achieve its goal in its current form.

“Preliminary examination of the Order establishing the Special Court suggests that little has been done to remedy the key defects in the criminal justice system which have permitted impunity for the greatest atrocities in Darfur in the past,” said Dismas Nkunda. “We will wait to see, however, how the Order is implemented.”

Mr. Nkunda added that the Darfur Consortium’s African international criminal law experts were ready to assist in monitoring the operation of the Courts, and noted that independent oversight of the process was critical.

The Darfur Consortium also welcomed the emphasis placed by the Prosecutor in his Security Council report today on the need for the African Union and African states to engage with the ICC process and help Sudan to establish the broad range of mechanisms which will be required to ensure justice for the people of Darfur . As a first step, the Darfur Consortium urged the African Union to finalize a framework for cooperation with the ICC.

Human security an essential precondition for justice

The Darfur Consortium noted that since the referral of the situation in Darfur to the Security Council at the end of March 2005 there had been some improvement in the security situation in Darfur , particularly with respect to air bombardments. Attacks against civilians, however, and what the Prosecutor characterized in his report as “persistent targeting of humanitarian personnel,” continued to be carried out with impunity.

Further, with the advent of the rainy season the humanitarian situation of those millions of Darfurians displaced both within Sudan and in Chad is expected to deteriorate. Just earlier this week the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan warned that there were large shortfalls in funding for critical food and shelter needs in Darfur.

The Darfur Consortium called on the Security Council to urge states to both fulfill their aid pledges and increase support for the African Union mission and peacekeeping force in Darfur.

The pursuit of justice must not be seen in isolation. “Stabilization of the security situation and provision for the basic humanitarian needs of the people are necessary prerequisites to the process of ensuring justice,” said Dismas Nkunda.

Darfur Consortium statement on the Abuja peace talks on Darfur

(NAIROBI, June 22, 2005 ) The Darfur Consortium and its member organizations are greatly concerned with the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Darfur. Violence and military activities in the region continue consequently the numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and war-affected people are in steady increase. We are also concerned that some parts of the region experience a killer famine because of aggressions and assaults against relief workers and blockade of access routes.

The convening of the Fifth Round of the Inter-Sudanese Peace Talks on Darfur is an important opportunity for a peaceful negotiated settlement of the conflict. However, we are very concerned that precious time was lost since the beginning of the Talks on 10th June 2005 and that little progress was made. The situation on the ground, especially the living conditions of IDPs and war-affected people, is so acute and so dire that it requires immediate and decisive action on the part of the negotiating parties. There is an urgent need to end violence and crimes committed in the region, in particular against women and children. Information we received confirmed that military operations, attacks and counterattacks continue while the negotiators are meeting in Abuja. This hardly creates conditions conducive to a healthy atmosphere for the negotiations to come to a successful conclusion.

We, therefore, call on the negotiating parties to agree on the following:

1. A real ceasefire agreement that puts an end to all kinds of hostilities in the region. This arrangement should be monitored by independent observers instead of the current mechanism, which proved to be ineffective.
2. Immediate disarmament of the Janjaweed militia and arrest of their leaders in accordance with numerous demands made by African Union (AU) policy-making organs, UN Security Council and other regional and international institutions.
3. Ensure full participation and inclusion of women in the Talks in line with the AU Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa and the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.