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.
The deliberate destruction of cultural heritage sites may amount to war crimes, a new resolution adopted by the UN Security Council says. Officials have warned of "cultural cleansing" in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
The UN Security Council on Friday passed a resolution strengthening the protection of global cultural heritage sites threatened by conflicts, saying perpetrators could be prosecuted for war crimes.
The resolution urges nations to increase efforts to preserve historic monuments and sites in conflict zones. The onset of the 21st century witnessed attacks against global heritage sites increase significantly, including the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan and Timbuktu's ancient shrines in Mali.
Previous efforts by the Council to safeguard cultural heritage focused on the illicit trafficking of looted cultural relics to fund terrorist activities in Iraq and Syria, where the "Islamic State" militant group destroyed UNESCO World Heritage sites, including Roman ruins at Palmyra.
However, Friday's resolution called for further international cooperation in investigations and prosecutions of individuals and groups committing attacks against cultural heritage sites, monuments and relics.
The resolution affirmed that "directing unlawful attacks against sites and buildings dedicated to religion, education, art, science or charitable purposes, or historic monuments may constitute, under certain circumstances and pursuant to international law, a war crime and that perpetrators of such attacks must be brought to justice."
UNESCO Director Irina Bokova described the resolution as "historic," saying it reflected the "recognition of the importance of cultural heritage for peace and security."
"Heritage is identity - it is belonging," Bokova told the Council after the resolution passed. "The deliberate destruction of heritage is a war crime - it has become a tactic of war, in a global strategy of cultural cleansing."
The resolution comes after the International Criminal Court in The Hague last year sentenced a Malian jihadist for the destruction of shrines and a mosque in the fabled city of Timbuktu.
On Monday, several countries, including France and Saudi Arabia, pledged $75.5 million for the protection of cultural heritage sites threatened by conflicts and terrorist attacks.
At the donor conference held in the Louvre museum in Paris, French President Francois Hollande said the destruction of cultural heritage added to the persecution of populations in conflict zones in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
"[It's] the same objective: to break what was there before in order to kill hope afterwards, to eradicate human and cultural diversity," he said, vowing to raise $100 million for the protection of heritage sites by 2019.
This article was published on DW's website on March 25, 2017.