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Darfur: UK urged to back International Criminal Court investigation

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Minority Rights Group International (MRG) has called upon the UK government to use the UN Security Council to refer war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. Reports have indicated that the UK is considering supporting US preferences, which may include a form of ad hoc tribunal such as those used for Rwanda and former Yugoslavia, given long-standing US opposition to the ICC. MRG states that such a move would undermine the role of the ICC as the world’s permanent international criminal tribunal, a role that it was expressly designed and empowered to undertake under the Rome Statute.

Following publication of the Report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur, Mark Lattimer, Director of MRG, stated: ‘The first act the UK Government and other members of the Security Council should now take is to resolve that the situation in Sudan be referred to the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in accordance with the report recommendation’.

The UN Commission stated that it ‘strongly recommends that the Security Council immediately refer the situation of Darfur to the ICC, pursuant to article 13(b) of the ICC Statute…serious violations of international human rights law and humanitarian law by all parties are continuing. The prosecution by the ICC of persons allegedly responsible for the most serious crimes in Darfur would contribute to the restoration of peace in the region’. The Commission clearly established that the Government of the Sudan and the Janjaweed are responsible for violations amounting to crimes under international law. In particular, the Commission found that Government forces and militias conducted indiscriminate attacks, including killing of civilians, torture, enforced disappearances, destruction of villages, rape and other forms of sexual violence, pillaging and forced displacement, throughout Darfur.

MRG criticised the US for its position on Darfur, which it considers contradictory. The US called the situation genocide as early as July 2004 and consistently called on the UN to act decisively. However, it now seems prepared to block one of the few potentially effective courses of action that have been proposed so far, the prompt prosecution by the ICC of those accused of planning and perpetrating war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. According to MRG, such a move could have real effect in bringing the crisis in Darfur to an end and as a deterrent against further atrocities in the region. British envoy to the UN, Sir Emyr Jones-Parry, has stated that the ICC is ‘tailor-made’ to try the crimes detailed in the UN report.

‘The UN Security Council has responsibility for dealing with the situation in Darfur, and as members of that body the US and the UK governments should now accept the findings of the Commission ‘, stated Lattimer.

Notes for editors

  • The Report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur to the United Nations Secretary-General states that: ‘Based on a thorough analysis of the information gathered in the course of its investigations, the Commission established that the Government of the Sudan and the Janjaweed are responsible for serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law amounting to crimes under international law. In particular, the Commission found that Government forces and militias conducted indiscriminate attacks, including killing of civilians, torture, enforced disappearances, destruction of villages, rape and other forms of sexual violence, pillaging and forced displacement, throughout Darfur. These acts were conducted on a widespread and systematic basis, and therefore may amount to crimes against humanity. The vast majority of the victims of all of these violations have been from the Fur, Zaghawa, Massalit, Jebel, Aranga and other so-called ‘African’ tribes.’
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