Darfur Conflict: ICC Prosecutor Warns Of War Crimes Accusations
The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has declared that war crimes are being committed in Darfur by Sudan’s army and its opposing paramilitary group. In July, Karim Khan opened a war crimes probe on the reopened fighting. He informed the UN Security Council (UNSC) on Monday that he had “grounds to believe” that crimes defined by the Rome Statute are being committed in the unrest-plagued western area.
He informed the UNSC that the situation in Darfur is “dire by any metric.” The International Criminal Court (ICC) was founded in 2002 by the Rome Statute to look into the greatest crimes committed worldwide, such as war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and crimes of aggression. According to Khan, “we are gathering a very substantial body of material, information, and evidence that is relevant to those specific crimes.”
Allegations of War Crimes
The paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) engaged in combat in April of last year, marking the most recent escalation in a war that has been simmering for more than 20 years. More than 7.5 million people have been displaced by the most recent wave of violence, which has left almost half of Sudan’s 49 million people in need of relief. By the end of 2023, 12,000 people had died, according to UN estimates, although the real number is probably greater. Khan expressed concern that Darfur would be forgotten when he recently visited camps for refugees in neighboring Chad that house tens of thousands of people fleeing the region. He pleaded with Sudan’s military-run government to provide multiple-entry permits to ICC investigators and fulfill 35 requests for support.
Challenges to Accountability
Long-simmering tensions between the military, under the direction of General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the RSF, under the command of Mohamed Hamdan “Hemedti” Dagalo, exploded into street fighting in Khartoum and other regions last April, sending Sudan into anarchy. The earlier battle, which started in 2003 when rebels from the ethnic sub-Saharan African population in the area launched an armed insurrection, accusing the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum of prejudice and neglect, has resulted in further violence.
In response, the government, led by President Omar al-Bashir at the time, launched airstrikes and let loose the Popular Defence Forces, popularly known as the Janjaweed, a paramilitary organization accused of rapes and mass executions. 2.7 million people were forced from their homes, and up to 300,000 people died.
Over the past 20 years, peacekeeping troops and internationally mediated agreements have failed to significantly reduce the level of violence. The UNSC sent the Darfur crisis to the ICC in 2005. According to Khan, the court is still required by that resolution to look into offenses committed in the area. The world had to confront “an ugly and inescapable truth” about its failure in the last wars, the prosecutor forewarned. “The climate of impunity and the outbreak of violence that began in April and continues to this day have been exacerbated by the international community’s failure to carry out the warrants that have been issued by independent judges of the ICC,” the speaker stated. “The unavoidable fact is that we condemn the current generation if justice for past atrocities is not served, and if we do nothing now, we condemn future generations to suffer the same fate,” Khan stated.
Al-Harith Idriss al-Harith Mohamed, Sudan’s UN ambassador, refuted the accusations, saying that his country had partnered with the prosecutor’s office and was anticipating Khan’s arrival. Its “strategic engagement and the operational realities on the ground” are what he claimed the ICC was ignoring. According to Mohamed, the RSF “militia” is carrying out extensive, deliberate attacks with the intention of “forcing ethnic cleansing and identity killing” against the Masalit ethnic population in Darfur.
He stated that the prosecution would decide whether or not this qualifies as genocide. The Hague, Netherlands hosted the first International Criminal Court trial in April of last year to address atrocities committed in Darfur by troops backed by the Sudanese government. Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman, the head of the Popular Defense Forces and popularly known as Ali Kushayb, is the defendant in this case. He entered a not guilty plea to 31 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
In conclusion, the ICC charges against former President al-Bashir and two high-ranking government security officials involved in the Darfur crisis in 2003, Abdel-Rahim Muhammad Hussein and Ahmed Haroun, have made “progress,” according to Khan’s report to the council.