Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on Sudan

Michael Barkin
Senior Policy Advisor
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
December 18, 2019


Thank you, Madame Prosecutor, for your briefing.

Today’s briefing provides an important opportunity to recognize the positive developments in Sudan over the past months, including efforts to begin to forge a just and comprehensive peace and address longstanding human rights concerns in Sudan. When we last met in June, we were concerned about security force excesses against peaceful protesters and we were unsure what path Sudan’s transition would take. We’re pleased to gather today, eight months after the ouster of Omar Al-Bashir, for the first briefing since the establishment of a civilian-led transitional government, CLTG. We’ve been encouraged by concrete steps parties in Sudan have taken to build a more stable, secure, and human rights-respecting future. The formation of the CLTG this summer, the signing of the Juba Declaration in September, and ongoing negotiations between the government and armed opposition forces have increased the prospects for an enduring peace across Sudan. We’ve also been pleased to see the appointment of women in key leadership positions, including the first female Chief Justice of Sudan. Ensuring the inclusion and participation of women in all branches of government is vital for Sudan’s future.

The ouster of Omar Al-Bashir – a symbol of genocide, crimes against humanity, and other atrocities – has both tangible and symbolic implications. It means he can no longer engineer horrific crimes against his own people, but it also signals to Sudan’s victims that power cannot be secured indefinitely through violence. The United States was honored to host Prime Minister Hamdok in Washington in early December, the first Sudanese head of state to visit Washington in over three decades. During the visit, the United States announced the decision to elevate our diplomatic representation in Khartoum and pursue an exchange of ambassadors with Sudan. Secretary Pompeo explained the decision by stating the Prime Minister’s government “has demonstrated a commitment to peace negotiations with armed opposition groups, established a commission of inquiry to investigate violence against protesters, and committed to holding democratic elections.” The Constitutional Declaration makes justice a centerpiece of the transition, committing to accountability for crimes against the Sudanese people since the start of the Bashir regime, developing the justice system, and promoting legal reform to ensure equality for all, regardless of gender, religion or ethnicity.

We have seen positive signals that the Prime Minister and his government will not overlook Darfur’s victims. The Prime Minister’s November 4 visit to Darfur, including to an internally displaced persons’ camp, sent a powerful signal both to victims and perpetrators of past violence. We urge the government to make good on its promises and address the root causes of conflict in order to create the conditions that will allow people to return home. There are few in Sudan more deserving of facing justice than Omar Al-Bashir. While we are encouraged by his December 14 conviction, we note that the charges were narrowly focused on corruption and money laundering. As we have said for over a decade, there will be no lasting peace in Sudan unless there is genuine accountability for all of the crimes that have been committed against the Sudanese people. To date, no one has been held accountable for the deaths of almost 300,000 people in Darfur, the rampant sexual violence, or the looting and burning of homes. Those most responsible for the crimes suffered in the conflicts in Darfur and the Two Areas should be held accountable for their actions, including by ensuring that they have no power to hijack Sudan’s future. The United States is deeply committed to supporting Sudanese efforts to ensure justice and encourage open, inclusive national dialogues about how transitional justice mechanisms can facilitate truth, justice, reconciliation and healing.

While we support justice for past abuses, we are concerned by reports of ongoing violence. Fighting between security forces and the SLA-AW in the North Jebel Mara area have displaced more than 2,000 people, and sexual violence remains a grim reality for many. This violence and these abuses are symptoms of unresolved challenges facing Sudan, including weak political and judicial systems that have failed to ensure accountability on all levels, as well the absence of a durable peace agreement in Darfur. We are committed to supporting Sudan in these endeavors. The United States has historically been, and will continue to be, a strong supporter of meaningful accountability and justice for victims of atrocities through appropriate mechanisms. Perpetrators of atrocity crimes must face justice, but we must also be careful to recognize the right tool for each situation.

Finally, I must reiterate our longstanding and principled objection to any assertion of ICC jurisdiction over nationals of States that are not party to the Rome Statute, absent a UN Security Council referral or the consent of such States. Our concerns regarding the ICC and the situation in Afghanistan are well-known. However, our position on the ICC in no way diminishes the United States’ commitment to supporting accountability for atrocity crimes, violations of international humanitarian law, and gross violations of human rights.