Darfur, 17 Years On: Reign of Impunity Must End

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In a new report published today, FIDH and its Sudanese member organisations document the continuing violence in Sudan, including sexual violence, and the failure to bring perpetrators to justice due to a lack of national and regional political will. As former president Omar al-Bashir was overthrown in April and is now being held in Khartoum, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS), and the Sudan Human Rights Monitor (SHRM) urge national authorities, as well as regional and international institutions, to seize this momentum to bring to justice those responsible for the crimes committed in Darfur since 2002. The conflict killed more than 300,000 people and displaced three million others. Without accountability and reparation for victims, international crimes, including sexual crimes, will continue to take place in Sudan, preventing any real democratic political transition.

This fact-finding report, titled “Will There Be Justice for Darfur? Persisting Impunity in the Face of Political Change,” is based on testimonies from Darfuri refugees gathered during a field investigation conducted in refugee camps in eastern Chad by FIDH and ACJPS; information collected by local sources, including lawyers assisting internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Darfur and FIDH’s Sudanese member organisations; and advocacy work with several regional and international bodies, including the International Criminal Court (ICC), aiming to bring to justice those responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed in Sudan since 2002.

Check out the special webpage created for the report: https://justicefordarfur.fidh.org

At this critical time of political transition, action needs to be taken to protect human rights and achieve a peaceful and just transition in Sudan. However, concrete steps in this regard have yet to occur. The various testimonies included in this report convey a clear message: in order to achieve justice for victims, substantial legal and political changes are required, and accountability for serious crimes, in particular sexual and gender-based crimes, must urgently be addressed.

“The transitional government of Sudan must demonstrate that the ongoing transition will not obscure past crimes and will take into account the demands of all populations in the different regions of the country, including Darfur, for long-lasting peace and justice”, said Arnold Tsunga, director of the Africa regional programme of the International Commission of Jurists and former FIDH Vice President.

More than 10 years after the ICC issued international arrest warrants against Omar al-Bashir and three others responsible for international crimes, including large-scale sexual crimes, not one has been arrested.

This utter lack of accountability has had serious consequences. Reigning impunity has emboldened leaders and their militias, who had spread terror in Darfur, to continue to control the security and military apparatus during the recent uprisings using the same brutal methods. In particular, they participated in the 2019 repression against those who called for the democratisation of Sudan. On 3 June 2019, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), mainly composed of former Janjaweed militiamen, attacked peaceful demonstrators gathered in front of the Army headquarters in Khartoum. This attack killed at least 128 people, hundreds wounded, and led to large-scale sexual violence. Mohamed Hamdan “Hemeti” Dagalo, the deputy head of Sudan’s ruling sovereign council, was one of the main Janjaweed warlords.

This widespread impunity is explained by the protections afforded to the perpetrators of these crimes. Sudan’s Special Criminal Court on the Events in Darfur (SCCED), theoretically set up to try mass crimes committed there, has never charged any leader. In retrospect, it appears to be a manoeuvre to evade international justice. More generally, impunity was guaranteed by a national legal framework that, until recently, protected defence and security forces from prosecution, while the Sudanese judiciary remained pliant to the political authorities.

While the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) referred the situation in Darfur, Sudan to the ICC, international justice has been hampered by the lack of collaboration on the part of Sudan and African Union member states. The regional body has consistently denounced the proceedings brought by the ICC against Sudanese officials. Al-Bashir, who is the subject of two ICC arrest warrants, notably for genocide, continued to travel freely to several countries in Africa and elsewhere. In 2014, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced that she would have to "hibernate" her investigations into international crimes committed in Darfur due to a lack of international support and cooperation, in particular the UNSC’s inaction.

“Until the overthrow of al-Bashir, prosecuting those responsible for the crimes committed in Darfur had gradually disappeared from the international community’s priorities. The international community, in particular the African Union, has a critical role to play in supporting international justice as a means to provide effective remedies to Sudanese survivors”, said Ms. Liemia Eljaii Abubakr Mohamed, journalist and member of SHRM.

Al-Bashir has only been charged—and recently convicted—by Sudan’s public prosecutor for corruption and illegal acquisition and use of foreign funds. Sudanese courts, unlike the ICC, have not prosecuted him for crimes committed against the population of Darfur. The ICC Prosecutor expressed during her last bi-annual briefings to the UNSC a renewed desire to prosecute al-Bashir, calling upon UN member states and the new Sudanese authorities to seize this important momentum to concretely act on their commitments towards justice for victims of international crimes. However, the leaders of the recently appointed sovereign council have yet to indicate whether they would extradite al-Bashir to the Netherlands.

There are still 2.6 million people internally displaced within Sudan and another 343,000 living as refugees in Chad. “For their part, the surviving populations of Darfur continue to suffer the consequences of the conflict that began in 2003. In the testimonies collected in eastern Chad, they express their impression of having been forgotten and abandoned, struggling to survive in extremely precarious conditions. Their fate should remain a priority for international humanitarian aid”, said Ameir Suliman, legal director and co-founder of ACJPS.

In refugee and IDP camps, women and girls continue to be subjected to numerous instances of sexual and gender-based violence, from armed men, but also men from the host communities, and from their own communities. While the UN has put in place a voluntary repatriation plan and former Sudanese leaders wanted the camps to be dismantled, Sudanese refugees fear having to return to their regions of origin. However, these calls have remained largely unheeded, due to the continuing insecurity in Darfur, particularly in Jebel Marra. From March to April 2018, ACJPS documented several deadly attacks on villages by militias, including by the RSF, while the UN panel of experts on Sudan expressed concern in January 2019 about the resurgence of sexual violence committed by armed groups in Darfur.

As long as the perpetrators of the atrocities committed since 2003 in Darfur are not brought to justice, this violence will continue unabated and refugees will not be able to return home.

Press contacts:

Samuel Hanryon (French, English): +33 6 72 28 42 94 / shanryon@fidh.org https://twitter.com/Sam_hanryon

Eva Canan (English, French): +33 6 48 05 91 57 / ecanan@fidh.org / https://twitter.com/EvaCanan

Darfur, 17 Years On: Reign of Impunity Must End by FIDH on Scribd

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