UN Security Council: Prosecutor on International Criminal Court briefing on Darfur, Sudan
Statement delivered by Gerard van Bohemen, Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the United Nations, 29 June 2015.
We are deeply concerned about the situation in Darfur. As your report clearly illustrates Madame Prosecutor, the last six months has seen an increase in violence against civilians, including a significant increase in aerial bombardments and rape on a scale never previously seen in Darfur. Oftentimes this violence is committed by the Sudanese forces or associated militia and the most vulnerable – women, children and IDPs – are targeted.
Today we not only mark ten years since this Council heard the findings from the Commission of Inquiry and its ICC referral, but we also mark another sobering illustration of this crisis: today we have the highest number of IDPs from Darfur that we have seen in the last decade – 2.55 million.
This discussion today brings the Council face to face with the fact that one of its key decisions – the Darfur referral to the ICC – is not only being flouted by the key indictees but by States that have Rome Statute commitments, there has also been criticism of the referral by some other African members of this Organisation. This outcome – whatever its causes – is very bad for the Council and also for the ICC, for peace and for justice. This Council, and also the ICC and the AU (and their members), need to reflect very deeply about the longer term implications of this divide between the Court and key African states who were among the Courts’ strongest and earliest supporters.
This is also a crucial issue for the Assembly of States Parties who should look, beyond Darfur, at the state of these relationships.
For this Council, we need to reflect on the fact that the Darfur referral has led to a chain of events, with some aspects predictable and some not, resulting in the Court’s authority being reduced both within Africa and also more broadly. As a country that is a party to the Court’s Statute and committed to upholding the rule of law, New Zealand finds this situation very troubling.
We consider that the Council needs to reflect carefully before using its referral power. While referring a situation to the Court may satisfy an immediate objective, if there is no genuine commitment from the Council to support the implementation of that referral, the longer term consequences can be very negative.
The status quo presents challenges for the effectiveness and credibility of both the Council and the Court. The existence of these challenges does not diminish the gravity of the crimes or the need for accountability, nor do they justify inaction. We need to work in a careful and considered way to overcome these challenges, including in the context of referrals. This will not be an easy or a short process but we believe it needs to be done.
In the case of the Darfur referral, Sudan’s non-compliance with the Council’s referral to the ICC is, as we know, not an isolated incident. There are a range of UNSC interventions in Darfur, and in fact across Sudan, and Khartoum’s non-compliance or, at best, sporadic acquiescence, is a systemic challenge to them all.
In relation to UNAMID, this was highlighted in the Peace Operations Review, which refers to UNAMID o as a Mission that is a “mere shadow of its original purpose” because parties undermine its presence through restrictions on its ability to operate. While we hope that this morning’s renewal of the UNAMID mandate will allow the establishment of a new and more cooperative relationship between UNAMID and the Government of Sudan, the past 10 years has been a sad history of studied non-cooperation by the Government. The same story can be seen, even more patently, in relation to sanctions which have, since the outset, been heavily frustrated by Sudan.
The backdrop to all of these challenges is an extremely serious humanitarian crisis in Darfur, with record numbers of IDPs and widespread human rights violations.
After ten years of the Council failing to make in-roads with the Government of Sudan or deescalating the crisis in Darfur, it is the relationship with Khartoum that we should focus on. The Council needs to think hard about how it can change the paradigm with Khartoum. And, equally, Khartoum needs to think deeply about the relationship it wants with the international community, starting with this Council.