Expected Council Action
In January, the Security Council is expected to receive the semi-annual briefing of the ICC Prosecutor on Darfur. Karim Asad Ahmad Khan, who began serving as ICC Prosecutor in mid-June 2021, will provide his first briefing to the Council on the ICC’s Darfur-related activities.
Key Recent Developments
On 9 June 2021, in her final briefing to the Council as ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda referred to the “constructive dialogue and a good spirit of cooperation” that her office had developed with the transitional government in Sudan. She spoke about her visit to Darfur the previous week and stated: “The clear and consistent message I received from Darfur victims in El Fasher, Nyala and Zalingei is that the four outstanding warrants must be executed and that suspects must be handed over to the ICC.” (ICC arrest warrants remain outstanding against former President Omar Hassan Ahmad Al Bashir, Ahmad Muhammad Harun, Abdel Raheem Muhammad Hussein, and Abdallah Banda Abakaer Nourain.) Bensouda had stressed this same message to government officials at all levels during her visit to the country, she said, and called for Sudan “to fully cooperate with the Office’s investigations, including by providing unhindered access to its territory and to the relevant records, information and materials, as well as the protection of witnesses”.
The ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber II confirmed charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity against Ali Muhammad Abd-Al-Rahman (also known as Ali Kushayb) on 9 July 2021. Abd-Al-Rahman, reportedly a former Janjaweed militia leader who is alleged to have committed these crimes in Darfur in 2003 and 2004, surrendered in the Central Africa Republic in June 2020. His trial is expected to begin in April 2022.
Khan visited Sudan from 9-13 August 2021, meeting with senior members of the transitional government—including Chairperson of the Transitional Sovereign Council Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, among others—and civil society representatives. In a press conference in Khartoum on 12 August, he said that he had “stressed and requested that the Government of Sudan further deepen its cooperation with [his] office”. He further underscored that: “Transfer of any suspect is an important step towards achieving justice but should be preceded and accompanied by substantive and ever deepening cooperation by the Sudanese authorities”.
Also on 12 August, Sudanese Foreign Minister Mariam al-Mahdi reportedly told Sudan state media that Sudan “would hand over wanted officials to the ICC”. At the time of writing, this had yet to occur.
On 14 December, some seven weeks after the military takeover in Sudan, an ICC delegation met in Khartoum with Malik Agar and Tahir Hajar, two former rebels who now serve on the transitional government’s Sovereign Council. Media sources indicate that the discussion focused on preparations for another visit to Sudan by Khan and the potential handover of former Sudanese officials wanted by the ICC to The Hague.
Sudan has undergone considerable political turmoil in recent months. On 25 October, the Chairperson of the Transitional Sovereign Council, Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, declared a nationwide state of emergency and the suspension of key provisions of the August 2019 Constitutional Document, including the transfer of the Sovereign Council chair from the military to the civilian government, which was set to take place in November. He also announced that the military would oversee Sudan’s transition until elections, to be held in July 2023. The military detained Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and his wife and placed them under house arrest. Government officials, including ministers and civilian members of the Sovereign Council, were also arrested.
On 21 November, Hamdok was released from house arrest, following significant international criticism and mass demonstrations in Sudan against the military takeover, which were met with violence by security forces. Appearing together on television, he and al-Burhan announced a new 14-point power-sharing agreement, including Hamdok’s reinstatement as prime minister, and the release of all political detainees. Under the terms of the agreement, the parties decided to “[a]ccelerate the completion of all transitional governance institutions including the Transitional Legislative Council and the Constitutional Court”, to form “a civilian government of independent national experts (technocrats)”, and to investigate injuries and deaths during the protests following the 25 October military takeover.
The power-sharing agreement has faced opposition in Sudan. Several parties have rejected the agreement, including the main opposition alliance, the Forces for Freedom and Change Coalition (FFC). Large protests against the 25 October military takeover and the subsequent power-sharing agreement erupted in several cities in Sudan, including in the capital, Khartoum, at various times in December.
Key Issues and Options
An underlying key issue for the Council is how to promote justice and accountability for past atrocities committed in Sudan. A related issue for the Council is how to support enhanced cooperation between the ICC prosecutor and the government of Sudan.
In addition to receiving Khan’s briefing, Council members supportive of the ICC’s work could consider holding an informal meeting with the prosecutor to facilitate a dialogue on ways in which his office can strengthen its cooperation with the Sudanese government.
They could also hold a joint press stakeout encouraging improved relations between the Sudanese government and the ICC.
Council and Wider Dynamics
The Council is divided on the work of the ICC. Albania, Brazil, France, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Ireland, Mexico, Norway, and the United Kingdom are states party to the Rome Statute of the ICC, while China, India, Russia, the UAE, and the US are not. These distinctions do not necessarily reflect how members view the court’s work on Sudan, however. For example, although not a party to the Rome Statute, the US has long supported the ICC’s efforts with regard to Sudan.
Among the wider membership of the UN, African countries have long expressed concern that the court focuses its work inordinately on Africa.
UN DOCUMENTS ON SUDAN
|Security Council Resolution|
|31 March 2005S/RES/1593||This resolution referred the situation in Darfur to the International Criminal Court.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|10 December 2021S/PV.8925||This was a briefing on the situation in Sudan and the work of the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS).|
|9 June 2021S/PV.8791||This was the semi-annual briefing of the ICC Prosecutor.|