ICC prosecutor reports evidence of mass killings in Darfur as crimes probe continues

[JURIST] Luis Moreno Ocampo [official profile], chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court [official website], told the UN Security Council Wednesday that his investigation into crimes against humanity in Darfur [ICC materials] has documented thousands of killings of civilians, large scale massacres, and hundreds of rapes that he anticipates will result in multiple cases rather than a single proceeding [UN News report]. In a report [PDF text] submitted to the UN Security Council pursuant to Resolution 1593 [PDF text], Ocampo wrote:

The Office has so far documented (from public and non-public sources) thousands of alleged direct killings of civilians by parties to the conflict. The available information indicates that these killings include a significant number of large scale massacres, with hundreds of victims in each incident. The Office has selected several of these incidents for further investigation and analysis. A large number of victims and witnesses interviewed by the OTP have reported that men perceived to be from the Fur, Massalit and Zaghawa groups were deliberately targeted. In most of the incidents where the OTP has collected evidence there are eye-witness accounts that the perpetrators made statements reinforcing the targeted nature of the attacks, such as 'we will kill all the black' and 'we will drive you out of this land.'

In addition to direct killings, there is a significant amount of information indicating that thousands of civilians have died since 2003 as a consequence of the conditions of life resulting from the conflict and the ensuing displacement. These include a lack of shelter and basic necessities for survival as a result of the destruction of homes, food stocks, and the looting of property and livestock, as well as obstacles to the provision of life-saving humanitarian assistance. This type of 'slow death' has particularly affected the most vulnerable groups, including children, the elderly and the sick.

The Office has also registered hundreds of alleged cases of rape. This is likely to be indicative of a practice that was endemic amongst some groups involved in the conflict and in relation to which there are indications of significant under-reporting. ...

The available information also highlights a widespread pattern of displacement of civilians, with recent estimates of some two million displaced persons and refugees from Darfur.
Ocampo also criticized Sudan's lack of progress in its own investigations into the Darfur situation [JURIST news archive], saying that so far the government seems to be investigating and prosecuting only minor cases. Under the ICC's Rome Statute [PDF text], the ICC can only prosecute individuals for war crimes, genocide or crimes against humanity when a state is unwilling or unable to genuinely prosecute. Addressing Sudan's initiation and conduct of investigations, Ocampo wrote:
The Darfur Special Court has been presented by the Government of the Sudan as an alternative to the prosecution of cases by the International Criminal Court - invoking the complementarity framework underpinning the Rome Statute.

At the time of the establishment of the first Darfur Special Court, the President of the Court highlighted that the subject-matter jurisdiction of the Court would include crimes against humanity and war crimes and that the Court would deal with any perpetrators, regardless of rank or affiliation. Moreover, the Government of the Sudan announced that approximately 160 suspects had been identified for investigation and possible prosecution: 92 from South Darfur, 38 from North Darfur and 32 from West Darfur.

With regard to the work of the first Darfur Special Court, there are no significant changes since the last report of the Prosecutor to the Security Council. So far the Special Court has conducted 6 trials of less than thirty suspects. The cases include 4 incidents of armed robbery, 1 incident of receipt of stolen goods, 2 cases of possession of firearms without a licence, 1 case of intentional wounding, 2 cases of murder and 1 case of rape. Eighteen of the defendants were low-ranking military officials (including 8 members of the Popular Defence Forces); the remainder appear to be civilians. The President of the Special Court has stated that no cases involving serious violations of international humanitarian law were ready for trial and that the six cases selected were in fact chosen from the case files lying before the ordinary Courts. ...

Based upon the current OTP assessments, it does not appear that the national authorities have investigated or prosecuted, or are investigating and prosecuting, cases that are or will be the focus of OTP attention such as to render those cases inadmissible before the ICC. The Office reinforces the point made in previous reports, that this assessment is on-going and a final determination will be made following a full investigation of the specific cases that are selected for prosecution. This will require the continued cooperation of the Government of the Sudan in providing access to proceedings, to officials and institutions, including in Darfur, and to relevant documentation.
Ocampo called for Sudan's "unconditional cooperation" so that the ICC can complete the next phase of its investigation where it will identify those most responsible for Darfur crimes.

Ocampo's progress report comes one week after Human Rights Watch released a briefing paper [text] condemning Sudan for failing to adequately prosecute war crimes [JURIST report] in Darfur. BBC News has more.


 

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