Culture of Impunity Must End for Justice to Prevail in Darfur, International Criminal Court Prosecutor Tells Security Council
FATOU BENSOUDA, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, presenting her twenty-fifth report on the situation in Darfur, said hope for justice was high. The evidence obtained from courageous witnesses had provided the basis for multiple arrest warrants, including for Omar Al-Bashir, Ahmad Harun, Abdel Raheem Hussein, Ali Kushayb and Abdallah Banda. “Let us not forget, these men stand accused of multiple charges for some of the world’s most serious crimes as foreseen under the Rome Statute,” she added. Despite budgetary constraints, her office was as determined as ever to pursue justice.
While progress had been made, serious problems persisted, she continued. There were reports that the Sudanese army, supported by the Rapid Support Forces, had clashed with armed opposition movements in North and East Darfur. Internally displaced persons continued to be subjected to multiple crimes, including alleged attacks against their camps and sexual and gender-based violence. There was a worrisome increase during the reporting period of arrests and prolonged detentions of human rights activists and political opponents of Sudan’s Government. Lasting peace in Darfur could only be achieved if the root causes of the conflict were addressed, she said. That included tackling the pervading toxic culture of impunity in Darfur for Rome Statute crimes. Calling on the Council to provide tangible support to her Office, she reiterated her request for the Council’s assistance in facilitating financial assistance by the United Nations.
Before the July judicial recess, a Pre-Trial Chamber of the Court would decide whether South Africa acted in non-compliance with the Rome Statute when it failed to arrest and surrender Mr. Al-Bashir in June 2015, Ms. Bensouda said. That decision would include whether to refer South Africa to the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute. In terms of travel to States Parties, Mr. Al-Bashir had travelled to Jordan, which also had declined to arrest and surrender him. Inviting, facilitating or supporting the international travel of any person subject to an International Criminal Court arrest warrant was inconsistent with a commitment to international criminal justice. It was also an affront to the victims in Darfur. The Council had the power to influence States — whether or not they were parties to the Rome Statute — to assist in the efforts to arrest and surrender the Darfur suspects. That also applied to regional organizations.
At a minimum, the Council must demonstrate its support for the work of the Prosecutor’s Office by taking concrete action in response to decisions of non-compliance or non-cooperation referred to it by the Court, she continued. To date, there had been 13 such decisions, and yet not one had been acted upon by the Council. She urged the 15-member body to give serious consideration to the proposals to respond to such referrals by the Court. The Council must also invite the Government of Sudan to demonstrate its commitment to combating impunity. Noting the challenges in securing cooperation from several States, she urged the Council to renew its engagement in relation to the arrest and surrender of the Darfur suspects. “It is imperative that we work together to restore faith and renew hope that justice for the victims in Darfur will finally be realized,” she added.
Published on the UN website on June 8, 2017.
Amnesty International and civil society organisations in Central African Republic (CAR) are today launching a national campaign urging authorities in CAR to tackle a deeply entrenched culture of impunity which has prevented thousands of victims of human rights abuses and crimes under international law from receiving any form of justice.
The campaign Justice Now! Towards lasting peace in CAR calls on authorities to commit to a tougher stance against impunity by holding those responsible for serious crimes to account and for CAR’s technical and financial partners to support the government’s efforts, including by funding the country’s new Special Criminal Court.
“Civil society organisations are joining together to ensure authorities in CAR do not neglect the vast scale of human suffering and distress that thousands and thousands of victims have faced during this conflict. The perpetrators of heinous crimes, including rape and killings, have roamed free for too long. They must be held to account if the authorities are to move from words to action,” said Olivia Tchamba, Amnesty International’s Central Africa Campaigner.
“Despite positive steps such as the nomination of the Special Prosecutor for the Special Criminal Court and of international and national judges, and the organization of two criminal trial sessions in Bangui, too many barriers to achieving justice for the victims of the conflict remain in place.”
The campaign will be run from today until November 2018, in collaboration with local civil society, including the Réseau des ONG de Promotion et Défense des Droits de l’Homme en République Centrafricaine (RONGDH) and the Coordination des Organisations Musulmanes de Centrafrique (COMUC).
Together they will join forces to undertake advocacy with the CAR authorities, organize conferences to highlight the need for justice, engage with the newly formed Special Criminal Court and be trained in monitoring, documenting and reporting human rights violations.
Since renewed violence broke out in CAR in 2013, Amnesty International has documented crimes under international law committed across the country by all parties to the conflict, mostly the anti-Balaka and ex-Seleka armed groups.
More than 5,000 people have died in the intensified violence since then, which has caused an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. As of March 2017, over 460,000 people have fled and become refugees in neighbouring countries such as Chad, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and some 426,000 have been internally displaced.
Accountability for crimes committed during the armed conflict, including rapes and killings, has been a consistent demand of the country’s population. In May 2015, participants to the Bangui Forum reiterated this by rejecting claims for immunity and amnesties for those allegedly responsible for crimes under international law.
Clarisse, a 57-year-old widow who was raped alongside her 19-year-old daughter Naomi, explained the tragic sequence of events that changed their lives on the night of 23 December 2013 when 11 armed anti-Balaka attacked her house in the capital Bangui:
“They threatened and insulted us. A few minutes later, some of the anti-Balaka threw me on the ground and two of them started to rip my clothes off and rape me. I collapsed. When I woke up, I was told that they [anti-Balaka forces] had raped my daughter Naomi as well.”
A few weeks later, Naomi was diagnosed as HIV-positive and became pregnant as a result of the rape. She gave birth to a baby girl who is also HIV-positive.
Clarisse told Amnesty International:
“I want the perpetrators to be prosecuted for what they have done to my daughter and me. I want to be compensated for all that I have lost.”
Elisée was among 14 men shot dead by armed ex-Séléka fighters in the courtyard of a hospital in Bangui on 5 December 2013. His sister Delphine filed a complaint at the High Court of Bangui but to date there has been no follow-up by the prosecutor or judicial authorities.
She told Amnesty International: “One day they will call me and justice will do its job.”
Amnesty International and its local partners call on authorities in CAR to:
• Ensure that prompt, rigorous, independent and impartial investigations are carried out into serious allegations of crimes under international law and other human rights abuses.
• Ensure that the perpetrators are investigated and prosecuted by the national judicial system, the Special Criminal Court or the International Criminal Court in fair trials without recourse to the death penalty.
• Increase the budget of the Ministry of Justice and allocate appropriate resources to ensure its effective functioning and good management.
• In collaboration with CAR’s technical and financial partners, strengthen the capacity of, and provide material support to the police and gendarmes to conduct investigations, including by collecting material evidence.
• Continue and intensify the progress made in the recruitment of national and international judges as well as other Special Criminal Court staff.
The organisations also call on CAR’s international donors to ensure sustainable funding to guarantee the proper functioning of the Special Criminal Court as well as to honour commitments made during the International Donors’ Conference of November 2016 in Brussels. These commitments include providing US$105 million earmarked from the national recovery and peacebuilding plan, to strengthen the judicial system.
Published on Amnesty International on May 10, 2017.
Vital for Sri Lanka to send message that 'impunity is no longer tolerated' underlines UN rights chief
Presenting an oral update on the rights situation in Sri Lanka, the top United Nations human rights official today said that a general lack of trust in the impartiality of the justice system in the country regarding past violations and continuing “unwillingness or inability” to address impunity reinforces the need for international participation in a judicial mechanism.
“It is important for the country's future to send the signal that impunity is no longer tolerated,” Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the UN Human Rights Council today.
“For this to be credible, [the judicial mechanism] should include a special counsel, foreign judges and defence lawyers, and authorized prosecutors and investigators,” he added, noting that national consultations had also identified international participation as a way to gain the trust of the victims.
He also said that while the design of truth and reparations processes appear to be underway, such efforts needed to be in consultation with victims and the civil society, and that the repeal of the terrorism prevention act and its replacement with legislation that complies with international human rights law is to be concluded.
Also in his remarks, the UN rights chief hailed the work of the civil society and human rights defenders in the country and underlined that they must be protected from harassment and intimidation.
Making particular reference to the reports of intimidation of members of civil society at the Palais des Nations (the UN Office at Geneva), the High Commissioner said that his office (OHCHR) would be looking into the issues closely.
He also called on the Sri Lankan Government to consult the independent commissions in the country, the Human Rights Commission, which he said play an invaluable role in strengthening good governance.
“I encourage respect for their mandate and autonomy, adequate financing, and implementation of their recommendations,” he added.
Mr. Zeid also welcomed a number of directives made by the President of Sri Lanka regarding detention but noted that reports of torture, excessive use of force and failure to respect due process are a cause for worry.
“There is clearly a need for unequivocal instructions to all branches of the security forces that any such conduct is unacceptable and that abuses will be punished,” underlined the High Commissioner.
In conclusion, the UN rights chief said that victims should be kept at the centre of the efforts in the island nation and noted that justice for them was vital to ensure sustainable peace.
This press release was published on the UN News Centre's website on March 22, 2017.