Aegis works towards justice for the victims in Darfur, including, but not limited to, supporting the role of the International Criminal Court. We have made films about both the perpetrators and victims in Darfur, created the 'wanted for war crimes' campaign, and we are a founding member of the Justice for Darfur campaign.
Many crimes have been committed in Darfur: the ICC has recorded that Government forces and janjaweed milita directly killed 35,000 people, while from 80,000 to 265,000 people died from disease and malnutrition caused by the crisis. The video below gives an idea of the seriousness of those crimes.
Aegis video: Darfur: Waiting for Justice, 2008
Transitional justice could take many forms: prosecutions, truth commissions, reparations, memorials, reconciliation ceremonies or lustration (vetting to ensure that former human rights abusers no longer hold positions of power in government, particularly in the security sector).
Sudan has, so far, seen none of this: neither justice for the victims nor accountability for the perpetrators.
So far, internal Sudanese attempts at justice have not been effective...
There have been two internal Sudanese 'attempts' at justice for the crimes in Darfur. The first, anounced one day after to decision of the ICC to open an investigation into the Darfur situation, involved the establishment in 2005 of the Special Criminal Court on the Events in Darfur. This was analysed by Human Rights Watch who found that Sudanese law lacks proper laws covering crimes against humanity, does not recognise command responsibility, has broad immunities for the Sudanese military, police and security services; and that the courts are not backed up by any serious political will to prosecute offenders. The special court did not investigate any of those alleged to bear most responsibility for the crimes in Darfur, although an eleven year old boy and seventy two year old man were prosecuted for amed robbery - ordinary crimes unrelated to the sophisticated crimes aainst humanity committed in Darfur. The second attempt began in August 2008 with the appointment of a special prosecutor. The prosecutor has opened investigations but attempts to investigate Government officials have so far failed. The purpose of these Sudanese efforts has, so far, not been a genuine attempt to seek justice - but instead are rather half hearted efforts to deny the ICC jurisidiction over such crimes - using Article 17 of the Rome Statute which says that the ICC cannot investigate unless "the State is unwilling or unable genuinely to carry out the investigation or prosecution".
This unwillingness is unsurprising given that it is the Government of Sudan which was responsible for orchestrating the attacks over a three year period from 2003 to 2005, and which shares reponsibility for maintaining Darfur in a state of insecurity and violence since that time.
Aegis video: Darfur destroyed: Sudan's perpetrators break silence
...the UN Security Council asked the International Criminal Court to investigate...
In the absence of serious attempts by Sudan to investigate the crimes the UN Security Council referrred the Darfur situation to the International Criminal Court in Resoution 1593. The ICC decided to investigate and it has opened three cases:
- for Ahmad Mohammed Harun, and 'Ali Kushayb'; where an arrest warrant has been issued for Ahmad Harun, a mid-ranking Government minister who allegedly was head of the Darfur security desk in the Ministry of Interior and coordinated the Sudanese military, the security services and the janjaweed militia in their attacks throughout Darfur. Since that time he has been appointed Minister of State for Humanitarian Affairs. 'Ali Kushayb' is the nom de guerre of Ali Mohammed Ali - a senior janjaweed commander in West Darfur. Read more about Ahmad Harun, 'Ali Kushayb', and their alleged crimes.
- for President al Bashir; where an arrest warrant has been issued for the President of Sudan for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity;
- for three unnamed rebel commanders. An arrest warrant has been requested for three rebel commanders for alleged war crimes during the attack upon UN/AU peacekeepers in Haskanita, Darfur.
In response to the issuance of an arrest warrant for President al Bashir the Sudanese Government expelled many large aid agencies operating in Darfur and other areas of Northern Sudan. This will result in shortages of fresh water, food and healthcare for many internally displaced people - resulting in an increase in death and disease in Darfur.
...the resulting arrest warrant for President al Bashir has led to requests to invoke Article 16
Sudan is lobbying hard, particularly at the African Union and Arab League, to gain support for an Article 16 deferral of the ICC investigation in Darfur. This article of the Rome Statute allows the UN Security Council to defer investigations for one year, renewable indefinitely.
Article 16 was envisaged as a method of suspending investigations if priorities of peace and security compel a delay of international justice. It was not intended to be a route for suspected perpetrators to threaten to commit further crimes unless investigations were suspended. Yet it is threats emanating from Khartoum which drive the calls to invoke Article 16.
The arrest warrants have been almost the only point of leverage that the international community have in their dealings with the Government of Sudan. The UNSC should not waste this opportunity by employing Article 16 prematurely, unless there is proof that President al-Bashir is changing his policies. The benchmarks against which the regime should be judged should include the following:
• Unconditional peace talks, and a clearly-demonstrated willingness to achieve a ceasefire in Darfur.
• A resolution acceptable to internally displaced people regarding their return or resettlement.
• Genuine cooperation with the UNAMID peacekeeping force and all humanitarian organisations working in the Darfur region.
• The surrender of Ahmad Harun, and ‘Ali Kuyshab’ to the ICC and the creation of robust justice and reconciliation mechanisms within Darfur to address the grievances of, and provide compensation to, all victims of the conflict.
• Expedited implementation of the CPA.
• An improved democratic climate in advance of the national elections in 2009, through the reform of national security and intelligence law and the media laws.
To invoke article 16 without movement towards these benchmarks would frustrate the UNSC’s mandate to promote peace and security.