UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council’s failure to take any action to enforce a warrant for the arrest of Sudan’s president for alleged genocide has damaged the credibility of both the council and the International Criminal Court, the court’s chief prosecutor said Thursday.
Fatou Bensouda told the council that this failure has further emboldened a number of countries to allow Omar al-Bashir to cross international borders without fear of arrest.
The Security Council referred the situation in Sudan’s war-ravaged Darfur region to the ICC and she said some countries have even expressed pride in disregarding its authority.
The court issued an arrest warrant for al-Bashir in 2009 for crimes against humanity and war crimes for allegedly orchestrating atrocities in Darfur. The ICC added genocide to the charges against him in 2010.
“The council’s failure to act in response to 11 findings of non-compliance issued by ICC judges has equally emboldened states … not only to facilitate Mr. al-Bashir’s travels to their territories but to invite and host him,” Bensouda said.
“A reasonable observer cannot be faulted for asking: how many more such findings must be rendered by the court to spur this council to action?” she said.
Bensouda said that “the victims’ quest for justice is as far from being realized as it was 11 years ago,” when the council referred Darfur to the court.
Darfur has been gripped by bloodshed since 2003 when rebels took up arms against the government in Khartoum, accusing it of discrimination and neglect. The United Nations says 300,000 people have died in the conflict and 2.7 million have fled their homes.
Bensouda noted that there has been a significant increase in air and ground attacks since 2014 with more than 400 civilians killed, up to 200 villages destroyed and 107 incidents of sexual crimes against women, mostly involving gang rape carried out by troops aligned with the government or unidentified assailants.
Sudan’s U.N. Ambassador Omar Dahab F. Mohamed reiterated to the council that his country does not recognize the ICC and thus was not under its jurisdiction. He further dismissed the court as a tool deployed by Western nations to go after African leaders.
“It is unfortunate that countries of the northern hemisphere have practically exempted themselves, thanks to Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements that grant them immunity, while African countries suffer discriminatory treatment that is worse today than what they suffered during the colonial era and in which they are denied the right to equal sovereignty and their leaders are targeted,” Mohamed said.
Al-Bashir has been able to travel relatively freely in Africa and the Middle East, even to countries which are parties to the Rome Statute that established the court and are required to carry out ICC arrest warrants.
Last year, when al-Bashir was in South Africa for an African Union summit, a provincial court ordered him to remain in the country while judges deliberated on whether he should be arrested on the ICC warrants. But al-Bashir left for Sudan before the court ruled that he should indeed be arrested.
Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer contributed to this report from the United Nations.