Statement of ICC Prosecutor, Karim A.A. Khan QC, to the United Nations Security Council on theSituation in Darfur, pursuant to pursuant to Resolution 1593 (2005)
Members of the Council,
1. It’s a great honour to have the opportunity to brief you once again. I want to also give my very sincere thanks to the Special Representative of the Secretary General Volker Perthes to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) for facilitating this Video Teleconferencing (VTC) from Khartoum, and of course to the Government of Sudan for supporting this briefing.
2. This is the first time in the history of the International Criminal Court (ICC) that the Prosecutor of the Court is briefing the Council from a situation country. It is the first briefing of course, from Sudan. I am delighted that over the last few days I have also been joined by my Deputy Prosecutor Nazhat Shameem Khan, who is just off camera.
3. And whilst I was in Darfur, she spent the last couple of days meeting members, senior members of the Government here in Khartoum. I came back from Darfur yesterday. And in South Darfur, I had the opportunity of meeting the Wali, the Governor of South Darfur, and visiting the very large refugee camp – Kalma. I also then flew to Central Darfur, again met the Governor of that Province, the members of his security committee, and also went to two camps – Hasahisa camp and Hamidiya camp. It was really a very impactful experience.
4. Mr President, members of the Council, it reinforced my resolve that the Sudan situation needs to be properly prioritised. That it fully justifies and requires proper resources and a proper focus of activities to make sure we deliver on the mandate that you gave us 17 years ago.
5. The simple truth is that the nightmare for thousands of Darfuris has not ended. And that nightmare of their experiences in large part continues because meaningful justice and accountability has not been felt in the manner that is required, or in my respectful view, was anticipated by the Council in 2005.
6. Kalma camp if I may be permitted, is a good example. It was established in 2004; 300,000 people live there today, most of them as a result of the activities that compelled the Council to refer the Darfur situation to my Office.
7. Generations have passed away, and children have been born in that camp. As I took the metal road, from Nyala, I left it, and left, went on mud roads, navigating donkeys, going over pools still with water from the very heavy rainfall that they had endured, crossing railway tracks. And after quite some distance, a very very long walk for many, we were met by an advanced team of people from the camp. And they were rejoicing! They were the typical Sudanese and Darfuri hospitality, chanting, “Welcome ICC.” And they ushered us in to a camp which had a throng of humanity, with slogans raising from their lips about the need for justice, their belief in justice. And I took the liberty of telling them, Mr President, that whilst they may be cut off from roads, their actions and their hopes in accountability manifestly demonstrates that they are not cut off from hope.
8. It was a moving sign, and it left actually quite a deep impression. But one thing is clear that despite the heavy rains that were apparent in their environment, they are still extremely thirsty, not for water, but for meaningful justice.
9. Mr. President, respected members of the Council, recalling that very well-known phrase that is now deep in Security Council convention, recalling Resolution 1593 perhaps is not always the same as remembering the situation that compelled you to refer the situation of Darfur to the ICC in 2005. Perhaps a moment of reflection in our minds, eyes, perhaps we can recall seeing the pictures of devastation – the caravan of humanity that was, this exodus within Darfur to the camps where many thousands remain today, and into the region. The allegations that you would remember, of rapes and killings and destruction of property.
10. I hope I don’t speak out of turn when I mentioned the members of all three camps I visited in both provinces of Darfur, that your honourable members, that this Council will not forget the people of Darfur because by any yardstick, they have not forgotten you. They are extremely grateful to you and they have high hopes in the Security Council, in the ICC, in Sudan, and definitely in the international community to make sure that words are not pious hopes but are actually delivered.
11. One of the abiding takeaways from that experience is how grateful the people of Darfur are for justice, for being remembered, for these beliefs that the fact we are speaking about them today, the fact that the Prosecutor came to visit them somehow showed that their lives mattered, that the lives of their loved ones that are departed and those that live with physically, the scars, that are there to see, that justice would not be a distant promise. But I felt very moved quite frankly because the gratitude was not in proportion to what we have done as a Court, as a Council, as Sudan, or as States.
12. We simply have to do much. And in my respectful request and submission, Security Council Resolution 1593 or the Juba Peace Agreement of October 2020 or the Memorandum of Understanding that I signed with the Government in August last year cannot be left to be adornments disguising inaction. We need collectively to find ways to move forward because so many are counting on you, and they are counting on us collectively.
13. I respectfully do suggest, with the greatest of humility that this Council consider at an appropriate time, holding a session in Sudan. I know you did that in my last mandate, United Nations Investigation Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL (UNITAD) when you came to Baghdad. And I think the opportunity to learn more, hear from some of those survivors, some of those Darfuris that are in camps, that hold you in such high regard, that have such significant hopes in you will help us reawaken our commitment to humanity and the obligations that vest in you as members of the Security Council.
14. One thing we have seen time and time again, and Sudan is no exception: If we don’t manage to deal with historic abuses, the cases that are well known in Sudan, a cycle of impunity may well continue and other cycles of violence take place. Why should people comply with the law? Why should they be concerned about public international law or international humanitarian law when they see time and time again people doing what they want and getting away with it? I think this call of action that is required, is well overdue. But in that environment, with all that experience, with the high hopes and the reality that we have to do more, we do have a glimmer of hope. And I have seen that in the faces, and speaking to many people in Darfur.
15. The fact that in April of this year I opened the Ali Kushayb case, the case against Mr. Abd-Al-Rahman, a senior Janjaweed leader, militia leader, has had tremendous impact on the people of Darfur. I think it’s importance cannot be overestimated, and this is a massive commendation to the persistence, the resilience, the courage and belief of the Sudanese people. Words simply are insufficient to give them their dues, that even in the very dark days of non-cooperation with Sudan, they believed that a day would come where justice would be delivered.
16. Mr. President, members of the Council, it is for us collectively to pray but also to act that this is not only a new day, but also that we don’t allow it to become a false dawn. That requires action, not words, it requires delivery, not promises because they are tired of promises, and I think this is the time to move forward.
17. The fact that the Ali Kushayb case has started, a senior Janjaweed leader that the evidence shows, that has been presented to the Court, directly butchered people. He and his men threw children to the ground, women were violated and so much devastation and cruelty was delivered; has actually given people that space to hope that tomorrow may be different to yesterday. That case, the 31 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity are now under the supervision of independent and impartial judges of the ICC. Twenty eight witnesses have now been heard by the Court, and they are representative of accounts that I have also heard in the camps. A microcosm of suffering. And I have every confidence that in due course, the judges of the ICC will properly determine whether or not those allegations are made-up by my Office to the required standard of beyond reasonable doubt.
18. This impact on the people that we’re here to serve collectively, the people of Darfur and the people of Sudan, was one of the reasons I was so keen on giving this briefing from Sudan. It’s why I’ve repeatedly said it is essential for the Office to change its approaches and to be more connected with the people in different parts of the world and to have a field presence. Because it resonates with them, it matters to them and it does show that with perseverance, with courage, with common action, with partnerships, with stubborn insistence that justice can be delivered, that it can be.
19. The moment, the fact that the first trial in the first situation referred to the Court by the ICC has started, is, as I have said, a meaningful one. It is an answer to some, in part at least, that say international criminal justice is impotent, the hurdle is too large, and the impact is too little. Much more needs to be done, but I do also suggest that sometimes we are victims of our own cynicism, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We feel international justice is not worth the paper it’s written on, we feel it’s all politics and high hopes and we lose sight of people that actually don’t care, and have never set foot in the major capitals represented by the members of the Council that I have the honour to appear before. Very often, they won’t leave their own camps, never mind their own province. But it matters to them. And it’s for that reason amongst many others, that it must matter to all of us.
20. This is also an important moment for the Office and its relationship with the Security Council because we have seen first-hand how this partnership can start to deliver. We need to accelerate action, we need to deliver more, it would be a false promise to say that the whole events in Darfur rest upon the shoulders of Mr Abd-Al-Rahman and Ali Kushayb. It will be adjudicated by the judges of the ICC, but there are other cases for which the judges of the Court have issued warrants and we need to make sure there is cooperation and accountability.
21. This afternoon, I had the opportunity to meet General Hamdan, the Deputy Chair of the Sovereignty Council and tomorrow, inshallah, I will be meeting General Burhan. And with both, I have and I will continue to emphasise the need for cooperation. Because I am extremely grateful for the opportunity, I don’t take it for granted, to set foot in this ancient and very important and noble land. I am grateful to be able to brief the Council. I am grateful that just a few days ago, multiple entry visas for a small delegation that are with me now, were granted. I am grateful for the courtesy, for being received at the airport and for all this security. But, as is detailed in my report, by every other metric, a backward step has taken place in terms of cooperation in recent months. It is a backward step that doesn’t prejudice me. It prejudices the Council’s demand for proper investigation, and Sudan’s responsibility by dint of Security Council’s Resolution 1593 to cooperate and also by virtue of the Juba Peace Agreement to make sure justice is actually delivered.
22. In the report, you will see new benchmarks that have been detailed, including the requirement to issue multiple entry visas, helping us to open an office in Khartoum as soon as possible, monthly meetings with the departmental level focal points. And of course multiple entry visas not just for the Deputy Prosecutor and myself and my immediate mission, but for the members of the Office that have to collect evidence and build relationships with the Sudanese authorities and the victims.
23. The coming weeks, I think, will assess whether or not this mission is a success. I have been as transparent and clear as possible with the senior members of the government that I have had the opportunity to meet. I want Sudan to succeed, I think we all do. I have made it clear what I expect and I remain ready to engage with Sudan and her people and the Darfuri people in every way possible. But the only thing I must insist upon is what you have required and what the victims demand, which is justice. And I think if we recommit ourselves and actually insist upon cooperation and build trust, hopefully we can vindicate fully the decision of this Council to refer the matter in the first place.
24. Thank you again for the opportunity, for addressing you today.
Source: Office of the Prosecutor| Contact: OTPNewsDesk@icc-cpi.int