Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing by the ICC Prosecutor on the Situation in Darfur

Mark Simonoff
Minister Counselor for Legal Affairs
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
June 20, 2018


Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you, Madam Prosecutor, for your briefing. The United States strongly supports justice and accountability for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Although the best way to promote accountability for such atrocities may depend on the circumstances, the United States will always believe that victims, including the victims in Darfur, deserve justice.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed during the conflict in Darfur, with more than 2 million remaining internally displaced and 5 million people negatively affected since the onset of the conflict. Although there are now fewer reports of civilian displacement across Darfur, internally displaced persons still cannot safely return home and risk attacks when they leave IDP camps. As the May 21-23 attacks by Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces on three separate IDP camps demonstrated, even IDPs who stay within camp boundaries face substantial risks.

The United States is troubled by the resurgence of violence in Jebel Marra in April and May that resulted in injuries and deaths of civilians, including children, the destruction of homes and food, and the displacement of 9,000 people. We also remain concerned by violence, including intercommunal violence, in other areas of Darfur, outside of Jebel Marra, and the lack of access in various parts of Darfur afforded to the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur. Of particular concern are the increasing reports of a potentially calamitous harvest failure across Sudan in October 2018 because of the ongoing economic and fuel crises, which could potentially contribute to a return to large-scale conflict and conflict-related atrocities as conditions become more unstable and people become desperate for resources.

We call on the Sudanese government to show restraint and to allow UNAMID, the UN Country Team, humanitarian organizations, and the media unfettered access to the areas where violence has taken place and where communities remain vulnerable to violence so that they can investigate these troubling reports, monitor current needs and conditions, and provide assistance to those in need.

Mr. President, it is shameful that sexual violence, including such violence committed by personnel in military attire and RSF uniforms, remains prevalent in Darfur and that the Sudanese government often denies that this violence is taking place despite clear evidence to the contrary. As the UN Special Representative for Sexual Violence in Conflict has noted, conflict-related sexual violence against children has increased recently, and cases of conflict-related sexual violence in Darfur go uninvestigated. This deterioration and the lack of accountability are unacceptable. The culture of impunity that continues to surround these atrocities, in particular those involving sexual violence, must end.

With hopes that peace could return to Darfur, the United States included ceasing military offensives and aerial bombardments in Darfur and the Two Areas as a key component of the Five-Track Engagement Plan we launched with Sudan in June 2016. We are pleased that the Government of Sudan made some progress under this framework, including ceasing military offensives and aerial bombardments during that period. However, much more progress is needed. We are determined to remain engaged as we work to develop a “Phase II” follow-on engagement plan, which will aim for improved respect for human rights and religious freedom, a sustainable end to internal conflicts, and improvement in humanitarian access, among other priority objectives.

Mr. President, to achieve stable and lasting peace in Darfur, justice and accountability are essential. Those responsible for human rights violations and abuses in Darfur, including targeting civilians, must be held accountable. This includes allegations that official security forces use excessive force against civilians and that members of armed militias perpetrate atrocities against civilians in Darfur.

We welcomed the arrest by the Sudanese government of former Janjaweed commander Musa Hilal, who is subject to UN sanctions for his commission of atrocities in Darfur, following clashes between the Sudanese security forces and armed militia loyal to Hilal. However, we are concerned about the lack of transparency around Hilal’s military trial and the charges he faces. We call on the government to investigate promptly and credibly all allegations against Hilal, including those related to atrocities, in accordance with Sudan’s human rights commitments and obligations, and to hold Hilal to account if he is found to have committed violations.

The United States has noted for many years that it is unacceptable that the suspects in the Darfur situation have not been brought to justice and remain at large. In particular, we have expressed disappointment that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir continues to travel around the world. Being received on such visits has served only to diminish the seriousness of the charges against him and to compound the tremendous suffering of the victims.

Regardless of the power wielded by those who are responsible for violations and abuses, we must stand with the victims, as we have in the past. For example, in Cambodia and Sierra Leone where leaders have in the past committed atrocities against their own citizens, they have been called to answer for their alleged crimes.

Moving forward, we will use all appropriate tools at our disposal to press Sudan to improve its human rights practices, to protect fundamental freedoms, and to promote justice for the people of Darfur. A Sudan that adheres to the rule of law, respects human rights, allows unfettered humanitarian access to all populations in need, and breaks the cycle of impunity is one that will enjoy a sustainable peace and will prosper. We look forward to the day when Sudan is a demonstrable proponent of human rights.

In closing, I would reiterate U.S. concerns regarding the ICC’s activity with respect to the situation in Afghanistan, which is different from this situation in many respects. We continue to have a longstanding and principled objection to any ICC investigation or other activity concerning U.S. personnel absent U.S. consent or a UN Security Council referral.

Thank you, Mr. President.