ICC Prosecutor’s Briefing on Darfur
- Peace and Security
UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL
Statement by Mr Michael Bliss, Political Coordinator, Permanent Mission of Australia to the United Nations
We thank Prosecutor Bensouda for her frank briefing. We could not agree more with her analysis. We are grateful that the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) continues to do all that it can in difficult circumstances to investigate Rome Statute crimes committed in Darfur since the Council's referral of the situation in 2005.
Once again, the Prosecutor has advised us of allegations that Rome Statute crimes continue to be committed in the setting of unabated violence in Darfur, confirming information received in the context of briefings on UNAMID. We deplore these acts and express deep concern at their impact on the civilian population, and on the peacekeepers and humanitarian workers seeking to provide assistance.
On 19 November, this Council expressed concern at reports that hundreds of women had been raped in Thabit in North Darfur on 30 and 31 October and called on the Government of Sudan to investigate the allegations. We note that the Report of the Enquiries Conducted by Sudan's Office of the Prosecutor General for Darfur Crimes has now been circulated to this Council. The Report's advice that the criminal investigation undertaken by the Prosecutor-General and his aides lasted only four hours is concerning. As are statements in the report that, and I quote, 'no such grave crimes could have happened while men would not move a finger or have some reaction' and 'from their demeanour and psychological posturing there appeared no signs of rape or sexual violence'. Taking into account the well-known challenges associated with the investigation of crimes of sexual violence in relation to which victims and witnesses may be unwilling to come forward, we urge Sudan to ensure that its domestic criminal investigations meet international standards.
Sudan must also cooperate fully with UNAMID to enable a thorough and independent investigation of these allegations, including by providing full and unimpeded access to the relevant locations. More generally, we reiterate the importance of accurate and comprehensive reporting by UNAMID, which is critical to the work of both the Security Council and the ICC.
While it continues to be important that the Council provide strong support to political reconciliation efforts in Sudan, the ongoing violence demonstrates the challenges this process faces and, therefore, the importance of ensuring that those responsible for such violence are held to account. Without justice, it will be difficult to bring an inclusive and lasting peace to Darfur.
Australia is acutely aware that this is the 20th briefing by the Prosecutor to the Council on the Darfur referral. Those briefings have provided a consistent message. The ICC cannot achieve its mandate – a mandate given to the Court by this Council – unless the Darfur suspects are arrested and transferred to The Hague. We are deeply concerned that Sudan has still taken no meaningful steps to apprehend the four individuals against whom there are outstanding arrest warrants, and nor have other States in a position to do so. We take note of the Prosecutor's advice in her report that her Office will soon file a motion with the Pre-Trial Chamber requesting another formal finding of non-cooperation against Sudan.
In this context we remind Sudan and other parties to the conflict in Darfur of their obligation under Resolution 1593 to cooperate with the Court. States Parties to the Rome Statute also have cooperation obligations under Part 9 of the Statute. The ICC Pre-Trial Chamber clearly concluded that Head of State immunity does not apply in the current circumstances. And we remind all other States, as well as concerned regional and international organisations, that the Council has urged them to cooperate fully with the Court.
We also call in this context for the strict implementation of the Secretary-General's guidelines on non-essential contact with persons subject to a warrant of arrest.
The Prosecutor has asked us again this morning what amount of suffering Darfur's victims should endure before this Council would act decisively. The answer to this question for Australia is clear. This Council has failed the victims of Darfur. It is not, however, too late to take action. As we have said before, sanctions committees should give consideration to ICC arrest warrants with a view to giving greater consistency between sanctions lists and ICC indictments. This Council should also establish a forum for legal experts to discuss how to strengthen cooperation between the Council and the Court.
Our most pressing task, however, is to respond to the ICC's eight unanswered letters regarding non-cooperation in relation to the situation in Darfur. To have completely ignored eight successive letters sent to the Council in accordance with the Rome Statute is an indictment on this Council's commitment to ending impunity for serious international crimes.
After two years as a Security Council member, Australia's conviction that the fight against impunity is essential to the maintenance of international peace and security has only strengthened. Our support for the ICC, and our efforts to ensure accountability, will continue.