Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on Sudan and the International Criminal Court

Ambassador Michele J. Sison
U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
June 8, 2017


Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you, Madam Prosecutor, for your briefing this afternoon.

The need to bring justice to the victims of atrocities in Darfur is overwhelming. For over a decade, Darfur has been synonymous with suffering and unchecked impunity. In responding to a rebellion, the government launched what became a brutal campaign against the Fur, Massalit, and Zaghawa populations. As time went on, the conflict in Darfur grew into a staggering crisis, with thousands murdered, hundreds of thousands deliberately deprived of the basic means of survival, and millions displaced from their homes. Many of us will never forget the first shocking reports of Janjaweed militia on horses and camels, storming into villages to kill, rape, torture, and burn.

The ICC has examined and charged a horrific list of crimes in Sudan: genocide by killing; genocide by causing serious bodily or mental harm; genocide by deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about the physical destruction of targeted groups; crimes against humanity of torture, murder, and rape; and war crimes including pillaging and deliberate attacks on peacekeepers.

For years, the conflict continued – even expanding into other parts of Sudan. During that time, we have consistently supported efforts to provide justice and accountability for crimes committed in Darfur and to finally break the cycle of impunity. At the same time, recognizing that the people of Darfur yearned for fewer bombings, less bloodshed, less conflict, and greater stability and safety, we also have focused on seeing an end to the conflict. Through bilateral engagement, we identified concrete steps to make tangible improvements in the lives of ordinary Sudanese and have seen results.

The Government of Sudan has taken meaningful positive steps with respect to the conflict, including committing to a unilateral cessation of hostilities, and while some violence persists, we have not seen government military offensives in this period as we have every year since these conflicts began. The Government of Sudan has also worked closely with our own to begin to address regional conflicts, improve humanitarian access, combat the threat of terrorism, and eliminate the threat of the Lord’s Resistance Army. There is certainly more progress to be made on these fronts, but these are welcome steps towards a better future. Indeed, we now see the possibility of long-term progress that we hope will lead to more respect for human rights, more accountability, more rule of law, and more justice for Sudanese victims.

But as we see encouraging signs of a new approach to addressing the longstanding conflict and hope that further engagement will spur additional progress, we must also be clear: we must neither forget the victims nor the perpetrators of the crimes in Darfur. We cannot simply turn our backs on the victims of genocide who were forced from their homes and left to die of thirst or starvation, or on the thousands of women and girls who suffered brutal sexual violence, or on those who were targeted on the basis of their ethnic identity. There will be no stable and lasting peace in Sudan without justice for the many victims of crimes related to the conflict.

As Ambassador Nikki Haley has said here in this Council: “In case after case, human rights violations and abuses are not merely the incidental byproduct of conflict. They are the trigger for conflict.” If we do not address the victimization that has occurred and the magnitude of the violations and abuses inflicted, any peace will be hollow and easy to shatter by those seeking revenge for themselves, their loved ones, and their communities.

In the years since the conflict in Darfur began, we have seen inspiring examples of accountability across the globe, where those leaders who targeted their own citizens in order to maintain a stranglehold on power have been forced to face justice. Former Ivoirian President Laurent Gbagbo is now in court in The Hague, while Charles Taylor and Hissène Habré are serving lengthy prison sentences. Beyond Africa, senior former Khmer Rouge officials in Cambodia have been sentenced for war crimes and crimes against humanity, and leaders responsible for Dirty War-era crimes in Latin America and atrocity crimes in the former Yugoslavia have also been held to account.

The Council should not let Sudan be an exception. Having referred the situation in Darfur to the ICC over ten years ago, we must continue to demand Sudan’s compliance with this Council’s decisions. While victims have not yet seen justice, and refugees and internally displaced persons continue to struggle years after the conflict began, it is unacceptable that President Bashir still travels and receives a warm welcome from certain quarters of the world – and unacceptable that none of the Sudanese officials with outstanding arrest warrants have been brought to justice.

Thus, as we pursue more engagement with Sudan and greater relief and protection for the survivors of the conflict, we must also recommit to supporting accountability to bring a just and lasting peace to the people of Darfur.

Thank you, Mr. President.