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The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Karim Khan, announced on Thursday that his office is probing recent atrocities in Sudan’s Darfur region as part of its ongoing Darfur investigation, underscoring the gravity of current abuses.
“Targeting civilians, individuals, targeting their homes, targeting their businesses, intentionally targeting children and women, are crimes prohibited by the [ICC’s] Rome Statute,” he said. “Any individual who is aiding and abetting crimes in Darfur will be investigated.”
The announcement puts on notice perpetrators of grave crimes – including commanders responsible for abusive forces – that they could be subject to prosecution before the ICC.
This should also send a message to regional organizations and concerned governments of the need for more robust action on Sudan.
“We are not on the precipice of a human catastrophe, but in the midst of one,” Khan said during his briefing at the United Nations Security Council. “It is occurring … We must act urgently, collectively to protect the most vulnerable.”
Since the outbreak of Sudan’s conflict in April, more than 300,000 people have been displaced within West Darfur alone, and about 217,000 have fled to Chad. About 98 percent of those arriving in Chad come from the ethnic Massalit community.
This week Human Rights Watch reported on summary executions of at least 28 ethnic Massalit and the killings and injuries of dozens of civilians on May 28 by the Rapid Support Forces and allied Arab militias, in West Darfur state.
Security Council members, other governments, the European Union, and the African Union should adopt and enforce targeted sanctions against those responsible for abuses regardless of position or rank. They should also call on all countries to respect the Security Council’s Darfur arms embargo and stop transferring weapons, ammunition, and materiel to the warring parties.
The UN Human Rights Council should immediately put in place an independent mechanism to ensure robust monitoring and regular reporting on grave abuses across Sudan, the investigation, collection, and preservation of evidence for future prosecutions, and guidance for governments on advancing accountability for ongoing atrocities.
Khan emphasized the absence of justice for the serious crimes committed in Darfur 20 years ago, fueled by lack of cooperation with the ICC, which has “sown the seeds” for this latest “cycle of violence and suffering.”
International actors should act urgently to end Darfur’s cycle of violence.