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International Criminal Court to investigate Darfur, but more is needed

4 April 2005

The UN Security Council has referred the situation of Darfur to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in its most significant action to-date to prosecute perpetrators of atrocities and end impunity in the region. While welcoming the move, Minority Rights Group International (MRG) has cautioned that this step must not be considered as an end in itself, but will be a long process requiring the cooperation of many governments to bring those guilty to justice. MRG stated that the killing continues in Darfur and the need remains for measures to be put in place to effectively ensure security and stop government and Janjaweed militia attacks in the region.

The UN Secretary General is expected to transmit to the prosecutor in the Hague a sealed list of names given to him by the International Commission of Inquiry that reported earlier this year. The referral to the ICC comes amid new revelations by the UK International Development Committee of the House of Commons and others, that the number of dead in the region has been vastly underestimated and may be as many as 300,000. New photographic evidence has shown military helicopter gun ships destroying villages in Darfur as recently as January 2005 and the bodies of women who have been bound and stripped before being killed. The Committee called for ICC referral, the imposition of sanctions and an extension of the arms ban to cover the Sudanese government.

MRG congratulated the Security Council Members, including France, which had proposed and supported the ICC referral and urged the body to consider all options for halting military attacks and preventing further atrocities in Darfur. MRG are currently working with the Darfur Relief and Documentation Centre (DRDC) and the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), in an effort to bring members of black African communities in Darfur to the Commission on Human Rights, in order to provide further information on the situation on the ground in Darfur to Member States of the Commission.

The text of Security Council resolution 1593 (2005) was adopted on 31 March by a vote of 11 in favour with 4 abstentions including the United States, China, Brazil and Algeria. The United States re-stated its fundamental objections regarding the court and the Rome Statute, and its disagreement with the referral to the ICC, suggesting that a ‘hybrid tribunal in Africa’ would be a more appropriate mechanism. However, the US representative stated that they had not opposed the resolution due to the need for the international community to work together to end impunity and resolution language that provided protection from investigation and prosecution for United States nationals.

MRG welcomed an invitation within the resolution for the ICC and the African Union (AU) to discuss practical arrangements, including the possibility of conducting proceedings in the region, to contribute to strengthening regional efforts to fight impunity. It urges the government of Sudan to cooperate fully with the Court and the Prosecutor. MRG points out that reference to the ICC does not limit the current and future Sudanese authorities from their duty to prosecute through domestic procedures.