New York -
The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court excoriated the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday for its failure to take action to bring Sudan's president and others accused of war crimes in Darfur to justice, and she demanded “a dramatic shift” in the approach to arresting suspects.
Fatou Bensouda told the council that close to 10 years after it referred the conflict in western Sudan to the court, “systematic and widespread crimes continue to be committed with total impunity in Darfur”.
Darfur has been gripped by bloodshed since 2003, when rebels took up arms against the government in Khartoum, accusing it of discrimination and neglect. The United Nations says 300 000 people have died in the conflict and 2.7 million have fled their homes.
The Security Council referred the Darfur conflict to the International Criminal Court in 2005, but has failed to pressure Sudan's government to arrest President Oman al-Bashir and others accused of war crimes. Sudan refuses to recognise the court and refuses to hand over Al-Bashir for trial on charges of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide.
Bensouda accused the council of failing to take measures to pressure countries to arrest Al-Bashir during his visits to other nations, especially those parties to the Rome statute that established the court who are required to arrest all fugitives sought by it.
“Darfur suspects remain at large, and no meaningful steps have been taken to apprehend them and bring them to justice,” Bensouda said. “Time is long overdue for the government of the Sudan's consistent defiance of UN Security Council resolutions to be matched by this council's decisive action.”
Bensouda expressed deep concern at the increasing violence in Darfur, “the immense number of people” who continue to be displaced by fighting, and ongoing aerial bombardments and armed attacks on civilians by pro-government Janjaweed militia. She singled out the newest version of the Janjaweed, the Rapid Support Forces led by Mohamed Hamdan, saying its arrival in Darfur in February from North Kordofan coincides with 17 attacks in South and North Darfur, including a dozen where civilian villages were set ablaze.
“It is indeed an understatement to say that we have failed the Darfur victims who continue to bear the brunt of these crimes,” Bensouda said.
She also called for a “thorough, independent and public inquiry” into recent allegations that the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur intentionally covered up crimes committed against civilians and peacekeepers, in particular those committed by the Sudanese government.
Three main rebel groups operating in Darfur demanded in late April that the UN investigate claims by the peacekeeping mission's former spokeswoman, Aicha Elbasri, in Foreign Policy magazine about “lies, omissions, half-truths” in UN reporting about the long-running conflict. - Sapa-AP