December 2016 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 November 2016
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AFRICA

Sudan (Darfur)

Expected Council Action

In December, Ambassador Rafael Ramírez Carreño (Venezuela), the chair of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee, is expected to provide the quarterly briefing to Council members on the Committee’s work. ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is expected to provide the semi-annual briefing to the Council on the Court’s work on Darfur.

Key Recent Developments

The peace process in Darfur continues to falter. In late October, Amin Hassan Omer, the government’s head Darfur negotiator, said that the government would not resume talks with the rebels in the near future, given their continued unwillingness to provide information on the location of their forces.   

Amnesty International issued a report on 29 September alleging that government forces had used chemical weapons against civilians in the Jebel Marra area of Darfur this year, leading to the deaths of as many as 250 people. There has been fighting this year between the government and the Sudan Liberation Army-Abdul Wahid (SLA-AW) rebel group in the Jebel Marra, an area to which UN/AU Hybrid Operation in Darfur’s (UNAMID) access has been significantly restricted. On 29 September, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said that “[w]ithout further information and evidence being made available, it is not possible at this stage to draw any conclusions” based on the Amnesty International report.  

The Council received a briefing, followed by consultations, on UNAMID on 4 October from Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous. Ladsous said that heavy fighting had been reported since 17 September in the Jebel Marra region between government and the SLA-AW forces, but that the mission had been unable to verify the reports because of access restrictions imposed on UNAMID by the government. Ladsous encouraged Sudan to cooperate with any OPCW investigation regarding claims that it had used chemical weapons. However, the government has denied the claims, and on 22 October, in his first public response to the Amnesty International report, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir called the claims “empty lies” in a speech given to members of the ruling National Congress Party.

On 9 June, Bensouda provided the semi-annual Council briefing on the ICC’s work with regard to Darfur. Bensouda asserted that the Council’s inaction had made it possible for President al-Bashir—who in 2009 was indicted by the court for war crimes and crimes against humanity and in 2010 for genocide—to travel internationally without being apprehended, despite the court’s arrest warrants against him.

On 27 September, Ramírez provided the quarterly briefing to Council members on the Sudan Sanctions Committee’s work. He reported that a new Panel of Experts had been appointed in September and that the final report of the 2015 Panel of Experts had been published. Both the appointment of the Panel and the publication of last year’s final report had been held up for several months by Russia. Ramírez also conveyed the contents of the 8 July briefing to the Sanctions Committee by Zainab Bangura, the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, who expressed concern at the high rate of sexual violence in Darfur.  

The Sudan Sanctions Committee met with the newly appointed Panel of Experts on 28 October. During the meeting, the Panel presented its programme of work and underscored its commitment to provide the committee with impartial and balanced reporting.

Key Issues

The underlying issue for the Council is the continuing instability of the security and humanitarian environment in Darfur, without progress on the political front.

Another key issue is whether the limited time the Panel of Experts has to operate will impact the thoroughness of its investigations. The Panel, appointed only in September, must submit its final report to the Council with findings and recommendations no later than 13 January 2017, according to resolution 2265.

A further important issue is the continuing impasse in the Council with regard to the ICC’s work in Darfur and whether a strategy to overcome this stalemate can be developed.

Options

With respect to the Sudan Sanctions Committee, members might consider extending the deadline for the final report of the current Panel of Experts to allow it more time to conduct its investigations.

Regarding the ICC, the Council could hold an informal interactive dialogue meeting with the Office of the Prosecutor to discuss next steps, given the divisions on the Council on the ICC and the recent withdrawal of Burundi, South Africa and The Gambia from the Rome Statute.

Council Dynamics

Views of Council members on the situation in Darfur vary widely. France, the UK and the US tend to be critical of the government of Sudan for contributing to the instability in Darfur, referring to human rights violations committed by government forces, the impunity for these violations and the government’s lack of cooperation with UNAMID. Other Council members, including China, Egypt and Russia, stress the importance of Sudan’s sovereignty and maintain that the government is making a good-faith effort to bring peace to Darfur. There are sharp divisions regarding the work of the ICC on Darfur.

The appointment of this year’s Panel of Experts had been delayed for several months because Russia was not satisfied with the slate of experts initially proposed for the Panel by the UN Department of Political Affairs. Some of the individuals proposed had served on the 2015 Panel of Experts, which produced a final report that Russia maintained was biased against the government. Since sanctions committees operate by consensus, Russia was able to block the Committee from appointing a new Panel until September, when a new slate of potential experts was put forward that was acceptable to all Committee members.   

The UK is the penholder on Darfur, while Venezuela chairs the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee.

UN Documents 

Security Council Resolution
10 February 2016 S/RES/2265  
Security Council Meeting Records
4 October 2016 S/PV.7781 This was a briefing on UNAMID.
6 June 2016 S/PV.7710 This was the semi-annual briefing by the ICC Prosecutor.