6135th Meeting (AM)
The Sudan had a responsibility under the United Nations Charter to arrest President Omer al-Bashir and other Sudanese citizens charged with crimes in the violence-wracked Darfur region, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, told the Security Council today.
The Court's warrant for the President's arrest had been sent to the Sudanese authorities, he said in a briefing to Council members prior to a private debate on the matter. The Government of the Sudan had the responsibility to arrest him in compliance with the United Nations Charter and Security Council resolutions. It also had a duty to arrest Ahmed Harun, whose appointment as Governor of South Kordofan contravened Council resolutions, and Ali Kushayb leader of the Government-allied Janjaweed militia.
All States parties to the Court's founding Rome Statute had a responsibility to arrest and surrender any indictee travelling in their territory, he emphasized, noting also that, while non-signatories to the Statute had no such legal obligation, Council resolution 1593 (2005) urged them to cooperate fully with the Court. While the implementation of a judicial decision against a Head of State could take months or years, as with former Presidents Slobodan Milošević of Serbia and Charles Taylor of Liberia, in the end they all faced justice. "There will be no impunity in Darfur. Justice proceedings are in motion," he stressed.
In compliance with Council resolution 1593 (2005), the International Criminal Court had been investigating crimes in Darfur and had identified six individuals for prosecution, he said. Three arrest warrants had been issued, including one for President Bashir, in addition to one summons. Having collected testimony from more than 130 witnesses in over 18 countries, the Court had also devoted much effort to ensuring protection for those witnesses.
The Prosecutor said that, in its first case, the Court had investigated the mass killings, rapes and torture of civilians from 2003 to 2005, which had forced the displacement of 4 million civilians. The evidence showed the role of Mr. Harun, then Minister of State for the Interior, in coordinating massive crimes against civilians and that of Mr. Kushayb in specific attacks.
He went on to say that in the Court's second case, covering the same crimes against villagers and displaced persons in camps, evidence indicated that President Bashir had played a role in ordering operations against civilians, appointing Mr. Harun as Minister of State for Humanitarian Affairs, organizing the strangulation of displaced communities, denying them meaningful assistance and preventing their return home.
On 4 March 2009, Pre-Trial Chamber I had issued an arrest warrant citing five counts of crimes against humanity, including extermination, rapes and killings, and two counts of war crimes against the President, he said. However, the judges had rejected three charges of genocide by a two-to-one vote. The Office of the Prosecutor had appealed that decision and the Pre-Trial Chamber had yet to decide whether to grant leave to appeal.
He said the judges' decision of 4 March had clarified the types of crimes committed in Darfur against the displaced persons in the camps. While peacekeepers monitored fighting between parties to the conflict and humanitarian workers monitored the physical plight of civilians, the International Criminal Court monitored individual behaviour that could constitute crimes within its jurisdiction. The intentional infliction of conditions in the camps - where the State apparatus controlled by President Bashir obstructed assistance rather than providing it, and where multiple rapes of women resulted in physical or mental trauma - was within the Court's jurisdiction.
The judges had retained the charge of extermination as a crime against humanity, he pointed out, noting that, under Article 7 (2) (b) of the Rome Statute, extermination included "the intentional infliction of conditions of life, inter alia the deprivation of access to food and medicine, calculated to bring about the destruction of part of a population". That provision mirrored those of Article 6, which established that "causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of a group" and "deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part" could constitute genocide.
He said the Court had also investigated and prosecuted attacks against peacekeepers, the most serious of which had been the one at Haskanita in September 2007. It had caused the deaths of 12 African Union peacekeepers and left thousands of people without protection. In that context, Pre-Trial Chamber I had issued, on 7 May 2009, a first summons to Bahr Idriss Abu Garda, President of the United Resistance Front, to appear before the International Criminal Court in relation to the Haskanita crimes. He had appeared in The Hague on 18 May 2009, and the hearing for the confirmation of the case against him was scheduled for 12 October. It was up to the rebel groups to facilitate the appearance of two other commanders. "They have committed to do so. They must now act."
Mr. Moreno-Ocampo confirmed that there were no national proceedings in relation to the "massive crimes" investigated by the Court in the Sudan. The Office of the Prosecutor thanked the Gambia, Mali, Netherlands, Nigeria and Senegal, among other countries, for facilitating its investigative missions, helping protect victims and witnesses, and facilitating the initial appearance of the first individuals to have agreed to appear before the International Criminal Court.
He said that, in the coming six months, and in accordance with its mandate, the Office of the Prosecutor would continue monitoring ongoing crimes, galvanizing efforts to arrest fugitives and building cooperation with regional organizations. However, it would not be opening new investigations and would focus on any new decisions affecting displaced persons, the spill-over of violence from Darfur into Chad and the use of child soldiers by different parties, including some rebel movements. In those activities, the Prosecutor's Office was consulting with the African Union high-level panel led by former South African President Thabo Mbeki, and Jean Ping, Chairperson of the African Union Commission.
Noting that the League of Arab States had been working for the adoption of a criminal code that would include crimes covered by the Rome Statute, he said that could help turn the tide against the climate of impunity prevailing in Darfur. "Should regional organizations succeed in promoting national accountability mechanisms for the victims of other crimes, and stop new abuses, we would not need to further intervene."
The meeting began at 10:15 a.m. and ended at 10:45 a.m.
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