Expected Council Action
In July, the Security Council will receive the semi-annual briefing of ICC Prosecutor Karim Asad Ahmad Khan on the ICC’s Darfur-related activities.
Background and Key Recent Developments
Sudan is not a state party to the Rome Statute of the ICC. The Security Council referred the situation in Darfur, Sudan, to the ICC through the adoption of resolution 1593 on 31 March 2005. (Algeria, Brazil, China, and the US abstained on the resolution.) The Council invited the ICC Prosecutor to update it every six months on actions taken pursuant to resolution 1593. The investigations regarding Darfur focus on allegations of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur since 1 July 2002.
More than 17 years after the Council’s ICC referral, the first trial opened on 5 April 2022 with the case of Prosecutor v. Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman (“Ali Kushayb”), which is ongoing. Four ICC arrest warrants remain outstanding; these are against former President Omar Al Bashir, Ahmad Muhammad Harun, Abdel Raheem Muhammad Hussein, and Abdallah Banda Abakaer Nourain. Sudan remains under an obligation to surrender the four remaining suspects in the Darfur situation to the court, pursuant to resolution 1593 and the subsequent orders of ICC judges.
Khan last briefed the Council on 25 January. In his remarks, he noted that the trial of Ali Kushayb had made swift progress and that 50 witnesses had been heard by the ICC over the course of 78 working days. He added with regret that cooperation with the Sudanese government had deteriorated in recent months and that the government had failed to meet the requirements of cooperation as set out in resolution 1593. Among other issues, he noted that access to documentation and witnesses remained restricted, multiple entry visas had not been granted by the Sudanese government, and new administrative hurdles had been created, including the need to obtain internal travel permits. Khan said that “a change of posture is needed by those charged with responsibility or those who have assumed responsibility in the Sudan”.
Fighting erupted on the morning of 15 April in and around Khartoum between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), headed by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, Sudan’s military leader and chairperson of the Transitional Sovereign Council, and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary group led by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (known as Hemeti), the Deputy Chairman of the Transitional Sovereign Council. In addition to heavy fighting in Khartoum, hostilities in Darfur have been severe, marked by significant inter-communal violence, with Arab militias supporting the RSF and targeting non-Arab groups in Darfur. The inter-ethnic component of the fighting has raised alarm among several Council members. Some members appear to be concerned about the potential for inter-communal fighting to spin out of control, recalling the conflict in Darfur in the 2000s that claimed the lives of some 300,000 people.
Despite several calls for a ceasefire from regional stakeholders and the broader international community, fighting entered its third month in June, causing a deep humanitarian crisis. According to the 22 June OCHA Situation Report, at least 1,081 people had reportedly been killed and over 11,714 injured across the country since 15 April. Moreover, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), since the onset of fighting, approximately 2.153 million people have been displaced within Sudan, and over 583,426 people have fled the country as at 27 June.
Following the outbreak of the fighting, several incidents were reported of prisoners escaping or being released (prison officials contacted by UNITAMS estimated the number of inmates released from prisons in Khartoum to be about 12,000). According to the Secretary-General’s most recent report on UNITAMS, dated 16 May, in a 26 April statement, the SAF claimed that prior to the outbreak of fighting in April, Bashir and some other officials of the former regime had been moved to a military hospital on the recommendation of the medical staff of Kober prison.
Sudan’s humanitarian needs are significant and have evolved rapidly. On 17 May, OCHA released a revised 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) for Sudan in light of the ongoing conflict. According to the plan, the estimated number of people in need increased from 15.8 million in November 2022 to 24.7 million in May. The plan calls for $817 million in additional funding, bringing the requirements for 2023 to $2.56 billion. At the time of writing, the HRP for Sudan was 17.4 percent funded.
Also on 17 May, UNHCR launched the Refugee Response Plan (RRP), which appeals for an estimated $470.4 million for an initial period from May to October. The RRP projected that the number of refugees, including Sudanese refugees, individuals from third countries, refugee returnees and migrant returnees, will reach approximately 1.1 million during this initial period. The plan outlines a multi-partner, multi-sector response strategy and the financial requirements of 140 partner agencies supporting the host governments of the Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, and South Sudan to provide protection services and urgent humanitarian assistance to refugees from Sudan.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 9 June, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) issued a statement emphasising its concern about the devastating impact of the fighting in Sudan on civilians. The statement called on the warring parties to ensure the protection of civilians and called on those responsible to be held accountable.
On 11 May, the Human Rights Council, in a special session, expanded the mandate of the UN expert on human rights in Sudan, Radhouane Nouicer, to monitor and report on all human rights violations and abuses committed during the ongoing conflict between the SAF and the RSF. In a 23 May statement, Nouicer noted that a “full array of human rights—economic, social and cultural as much as civil and political—are being violated, and both parties have singularly failed to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law”. He said that Sudan is facing a chronic shortage of food and drinking water and further pointed out the indiscriminate attacks in residential areas and widespread looting. He called on the warring parties to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law to protect civilians from the effects of hostilities.
Key Issues and Options
An underlying key issue for the Council is how to promote justice and accountability for past atrocities committed in Sudan. Another key issue for the Council is how to enhance cooperation between the ICC prosecutor and the government of Sudan.
It remains to be seen how the recent fighting that erupted in Sudan on 15 April between the SAF and the RSF may hinder the ICC’s cooperation with the Sudanese government.
A related issue for the Council is how to alleviate the growing humanitarian needs in Sudan and address the ongoing violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law by the Sudanese warring parties. According to local media reports, on 26 June, Hemeti acknowledged the human rights violations committed by his forces and announced the establishment of a court to combat these crimes.
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 could strengthen its cooperation with the Sudanese government and seek accountability for the atrocities committed in Sudan.
Council and Wider Dynamics
The Council is divided on the work of the ICC. Albania, Brazil, Ecuador, France, Gabon, Ghana, Japan, Malta, Switzerland, and the UK are state parties to the Rome Statute of the ICC. China, Mozambique, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, and the US are not. These distinctions, however, do not necessarily reflect how members view the court’s work on Sudan. For example, 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 concerns about what they view as the court’s disproportionate focus on Africa.
At the last semi-annual briefing on 25 January, wide-ranging views were expressed on the ICC’s work in relation to Darfur. Many members welcomed the progress on Ali Kushayb’s trial while calling on Sudan to cooperate more with the court, including providing access to key witnesses and allowing the court to establish a greater field presence. Russia was critical of the court’s work and does not regard the case against Ali Kushayb as a breakthrough.
Russia’s already negative view of the ICC hardened following the court’s announcement on 17 March that it had issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his commissioner for children’s rights, Maria Lvova-Belova, for allegedly committing the war crime of “unlawful deportation” and “unlawful transfer” of children from Ukraine to Russia. On 11 May, when the ICC prosecutor most recently briefed the Council on the court’s work in Libya, the Russian representative expressed the view that the ICC “has become a very obedient puppet of Western countries and is acting on the orders and in the political interests of Western countries” adding that the prosecutor’s “presence in our building is not only pointless, but it is also an insult to the Organization”.
The UK is the penholder on Sudan, and the US is the penholder on Sudan sanctions.
UN DOCUMENTS ON SUDAN
Security Council Resolutions|
31 March 2005S/RES/1593|
This resolution referred the situation in Darfur to the International Criminal Court.|
16 May 2023S/2023/355|
This was the 90-day report on UNITAMS.|
Security Council Meeting Records|
25 January 2023S/PV.9249|
This was the semi-annual ICC briefing.|