Despite progress being made in Sudan — marked by the first International Criminal Court war crimes trial of a former Janjaweed commander — the nightmare for thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons has not ended, the Court’s top prosecutor stressed today, calling on the Security Council to urgently turn its words into action 17 years after resolution 1593 (2005).
Karim Khan, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, speaking via videoconference from Khartoum, described his recent visits to three refugee camps in Darfur, including the Kalma refugee camp. In particular, he noted that at the Kalma camp, the nightmare for 300,000 people continues because justice and accountability have not been delivered as anticipated by the Council in 2005. During his visit, people rejoiced and chanted “Welcome ICC!” — calling for and expressing belief in justice.
He pointed out that recalling resolution 1593 (2005) is not always the same as remembering the situation which compelled the Council to refer the situation to the Court in 2005. He expressed hope he had not spoken out of turn when he told the people in all three camps that the Council will not forget Darfur “because they have not forgotten you”. However, their gratitude was not in proportion to what the Court, Council, Sudan and Member States have done, he noted.
Still, there was a glimmer of hope in the April case against Ali Abd-Al-Rahman, senior Janjaweed leader, which has had a great impact on the people of Darfur, he continued. He cited evidence that Mr. Abd-Al-Rahman butchered people and is facing 31 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, with 28 witnesses heard by the Court, which was “a microcosm of suffering”. The fact that this first case has begun is meaningful for those who feel international justice is impotent. Therefore, he stressed the importance of the partnership between his Office and Council to deliver more.
Noting that there are other cases for which the Court has issued warrants, he acknowledged the multiple entry visas granted for his small delegation. Nonetheless, recent months have marked a backwards step on cooperation — which prejudices not him but the Council’s demand for proper investigation, and Sudan’s responsibility to cooperate. The coming weeks will assess whether or not the mission is a success, he said, insisting on what the Council has required and what the victims demand, which is justice.
In the ensuing debate, many delegates welcomed the progress marked by the trial of Mr. Abd-Al-Rahman but called for greater cooperation with the Court from the Sudanese Government, including access to key witnesses and the Court’s establishing a greater field presence.
The representative of the United Kingdom said that the 28 witnesses who have provided evidence against Mr. Abd-Al-Rahman was a testament to their “courage and patience for them to tell their stories after two decades”. However, he expressed regret at the lack of sufficient cooperation from Sudanese authorities since the 2021 military coup, jeopardizing progress the previous Government had made. He urged authorities to respond swiftly to the Court’s requests for assistance and called for action on the four outstanding warrants and the surrender of Abdallah Banda Abakaer Nourain.
Gabon’s delegate stressed that the success of the ongoing trial depends on the improvement of the political and security situation in Sudan — especially in Darfur, where insecurity slows investigations and begets new victims. He urged national and international efforts to come together towards a return to constitutional order for enhanced cooperation between the Court and Sudanese authorities.
The representative of Ghana agreed that the Court’s engagement with relevant national authorities is a positive step towards desired results, but stressed it should not be subordinated to the principle of complementarity, which is a core principle of the Rome Statute. He commended the Prosecutor for his planned meeting with victims and survivor groups in internally displaced people’s camps in both South and Central Darfur states during his ongoing visit to Sudan from 20 to 24 August.
The Russian Federation’s representative, however, noting that the Court’s report is a month late, said that the first trial — one plaintiff after 15 years — did not constitute a major breakthrough. Further, the Court receives assistance from Western States to investigate the Ukraine dossier, while other serious cases are “swept under the carpet”. Objecting to such double standards, he quoted the Prosecutor’s own father in stressing that “if you point a finger at someone, you have three fingers pointed at you” — which holds true for those accusing his country.
Nonetheless, the representative of Sudan highlighted significant positive developments preparing the ground for a new political reality where freedom, justice and the rule of law prevail. The Government of Sudan has consistently demonstrated its commitment to cooperation with the Court, especially the Office of the Prosecutor — which has a high-level delegation in Khartoum at this moment. The people of Darfur have long suffered and the Government has put that issue at the top of its priority list during the transitional phase.
He noted former Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda had agreed to three options in dealing with suspects: that they be prosecuted by Sudanese courts; appear before the Court; or Sudan would prosecute them by a hybrid court with international support. He called for different options to be examined, stressing the commitment to cooperation with the Prosecutor’s Office.
Mr. Khan, responding to comments, agreed with Sudan’s representative on the importance of looking at imaginative ways to move the situation forward. However, he challenged the fallacious assertion that his report was late. In fact, it was delayed at the request of Sudan out of respect for the recent Muslim festival. He urged the Russian Federation’s representative not to see the whole world through the lens of what is happening in Ukraine, underscoring that the people of Darfur deserved a few minutes’ focus on their own suffering. He then quoted another one of his father’s pearls of wisdom: that when one has jaundice, everything seems yellow, adding that he was praying for all parties involved be cured of that affliction as soon as possible.
Also speaking were the representatives of Mexico, United Arab Emirates, Brazil, United States, India, Norway, Ireland, Kenya, Albania, France and China (Council President for August, in his national capacity).
The meeting began at 10:02 a.m. and ended at 11:36 a.m.