Politics: UN Approves War Crimes Prosecutions in Sudan
Inter Press Service  (Johannesburg)

 April 1, 2005
Thalif Deen
 United Nations

 The U.N. Security Council decision to refer those accused of war crimes in Sudan to the International Criminal Court (ICC) should be logically followed by a multinational intervention to stop the ongoing genocide in that country, say African activists and U.S. human rights groups.

"The number one priority is to stop the violence and protect the people of Darfur (in western Sudan)," according to Ann-Louise Colgan, director of policy analysis and communications at the Washington-based Africa Action.

If the Security Council is to move forward, she said, this should be the first order of business. "What is needed is an urgent and robust international intervention to stop the genocide," Colgan told IPS.

Since the fighting escalated in Darfur in early 2003, some 180,000 people have died while another 1.8 million have been rendered homeless, including about 200,000 who have fled to neighbouring Chad, according to the United Nations.

Hours after the 15-member Security Council adopted a resolution Thursday night to send war crimes suspects to the ICC in The Hague, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan congratulated Council members "for overcoming their differences to allow it to act to ensure that those responsible for atrocities in Darfur are held to account."

The resolution was adopted Thursday by a vote of 11 in favour, with four abstentions -- the United States, Algeria, Brazil and China.

The United States, which was expected to veto the resolution because it is opposed to the very concept of the ICC, decided to abstain following an amendment to exempt nationals from countries (such as the United States) that are not party to the Rome Statute, which created the ICC, from the jurisdiction of the court.

These non-ICC states will have exclusive jurisdiction over their own nationals and personnel they contribute to peacekeeping operations in Sudan mandated by the Security Council or the African Union (AU). But they will not come under the jurisdiction of the ICC.

"The resolution's exemption is offensive," says Richard Dicker, director of Human Rights Watch's International Justice Programme.

"We oppose this exemption giving non-ICC states exclusive jurisdiction over personnel they contribute to Security Council or African Union operations in Sudan," he said.

Canada, a country that had a key role in creating the ICC, expressed disappointment over the diluted Security Council resolution.

"Canada considers (this) to be inconsistent with basic legal principles of accountability," Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin said in a statement released in Ottawa Friday.

"In Canada's view, such an exemption must not establish a precedent for future Security Council referrals to the ICC," he added.

The exemption is "totally unacceptable," says Yvonne Terlingen, the U.N. Representative of Amnesty International.

"It creates double standards of justice, contravenes the U.N. charter, the Rome Statute and other international law," she added.

Terlingen said the offending clause "must be banished from all future Security Council resolutions."

Colgan told IPS that the existing African Union (AU) force on the ground, numbering about 2,000 soldiers, is doing what it can in the face of enormous challenges and with an inadequate troop size and mandate.

She said the AU has provided important leadership on the crisis in Darfur, but it should not have to shoulder this burden alone.

"The security situation on the ground is deteriorating and the humanitarian crisis is reaching desperate proportions. Unless there is a rapid and robust international intervention, up to a million people could be dead by the end of this year," she warned.

Colgan said the member states of the Security Council must work with the AU to strengthen its mandate and to complement its presence with a strong international force that can stop the violence, protect civilians and facilitate a massive expansion of the humanitarian effort.

Heather Hamilton, vice president of Citizens for Global Solutions, pointed out that the Security Council decision to go after Sudan was a historical first for international law.

"This is the first time a case has been referred to the ICC through the Security Council. It demonstrates that the ICC is the only legitimate international body able to deal with genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity when states fail to do so," she added.
Hamilton said the AU force is only permitted to monitor cease-fire violations and document human rights abuses -- not to stop the violence.

"The AU mission desperately needs to be given the political, financial and logistical support it needs to do the job and stop the violence now," she added.