Sudanese Government-sponsored attacks against civilians continue in Darfur, with thousands of people freshly displaced from their villages and sexual violence against women also widespread, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) told the Security Council today as he called for tougher action to improve the situation in the war-wracked region.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo said the facts show that war crimes are still taking place in Darfur, seven years after fighting between Government forces, allied militiamen known as the Janjaweed and rebel groups first flared.
In February, immediately after the signing of a peace agreement and public commitments to peace, 100,000 civilians were forcibly displaced by Sudanese armed forces in the Jebel Marra, " he said, referring to a mountainous area of central Darfur.
Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said the modus operandi was the same as that used earlier in the conflict " air bombardments followed by attacks of Sudanese armed forces integrating militia/Janjaweed. "
He added that gender crimes remain unabated, " with female internally displaced persons (IDPs) facing acts of sexual violence, often from groups of armed men dressed in military uniforms.
The prosecutor said he was even more concerned that victims are increasingly discouraged from reporting rape and sexual violence, because they known they won`t benefit from remedial action. "
In 2007 the ICC indicted Ahmad Harun, a former national government minister of the interior, and the alleged Janjaweed leader Ali Kushayb for the alleged murder of civilians, rape and other outrages upon the personal dignity of women and girls, persecution, forcible transfers, imprisonment or severe deprivation of liberty, and attacks intentionally directed against civilians.
But the two men remain at large and Mr. Harun is now the Governor of South Kordofan state. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir also faces charges before the ICC of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Last month the court`s judges in The Hague referred Sudan`s lack of cooperation in failing to arrest the indictees to the Security Council.
Although Sudan is not a State Party to the Rome Statute that set up the ICC, it is obliged to cooperate fully with and provide any necessary assistance to the court and the prosecutor " in accordance with a Security Council resolution adopted in 2005.
The impunity of Ahmad Harun and Ali Kushayb is one of the main problems, " Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said. It carries a price. Ali Kushayb is a tribal leader, still exercising power in his own area in South Darfur and a vivid example to other Janjaweed that they can continue committing crimes, [that] there is impunity. "
The prosecutor later told journalists that it was critically important to arrest the men not just for past crimes, but to ensure that they do not carry out crimes in the future. He added that he wanted Council members to ensure that Member States consistently insist that Sudan arrest the two indictees.
An estimated 300,000 people have died in Darfur since 2003, either through fighting, disease, hunger or other consequences of conflict. Another 2.7 million people live as IDPs or as refugees in neighbouring countries such as Chad.
Since the start of 2008 a joint UN-African Union peacekeeping operation (known as UNAMID) has been in place to try to quell the fighting and alleviate the humanitarian suffering.
Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said today that there is a need for an updated, comprehensive report of the UN Secretariat on the current situations in the camps and the villages. The fragmented information on the rapes [and] on the obstacles to humanitarian assistance must be put together to allow the international community to consider the current extent of the suffering of the civilians. "
Sudanese ambassador Abdalmahmood Mohamad told journalists that the actions of Mr. Moreno-Ocampo were that of a desperate " prosecutor, and that the situation in Darfur was actually improving for its inhabitants.
He also accused the court of being selective in pursuing cases and ignoring possible war crimes committed by other countries.