Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the International Criminal Court’s Investigation in Darfur, Sudan

Ambassador Jonathan Cohen
U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
December 14, 2018


Merci, Monsieur Le Président, and thank you, Madam Prosecutor, for your briefing. The United States will always believe that victims in Darfur deserve justice and that accountability is essential for achieving a stable and lasting peace in Darfur. We will continue calling for all those responsible for the horrific crimes committed in Darfur to be held accountable for their actions.

After 15 years of conflict and a genocide in Darfur, more than 300,000 people have been killed, and close to 2 million more have been internally displaced. Clashes between opposition and government forces in Darfur’s Jebel Marra area continue to exact a toll on the civilian population, including the destruction of villages and the killing, injury, and displacement of civilians.

The United States is encouraged by UN reporting that Darfur’s overall security situation is improving. However, the security situation for civilians in Jebel Marra remains precarious due to ongoing fighting between opposition and government forces. This fighting has reportedly included attacks on civilians. More broadly, throughout Darfur, persistent risks to civilians stem from intercommunal violence between farmers and herders and harassment of internally displaced persons by armed settlers, among other issues. We urge the Sudanese government to cease restrictions on movement in Darfur, especially within the Jebel Marra region, for UNAMID and humanitarian organizations to support the region’s fragile security gains.

Mr. President, the United States also remains deeply concerned about the vulnerability of Darfur’s IDPs. The UN Independent Expert for Sudan highlighted land occupation and violence targeting internally displaced persons as a hindrance to IDP returns and the consolidation of peace in Darfur. The UN Independent Expert specifically noted sexual violence against displaced girls and women.

Long-term stability in Darfur will depend on resolving the underlying causes of the protracted conflict. We welcome the December 6 signature of a Pre-Negotiations Document between the Justice and Equality Movement, Sudan Liberation Movement – Minni Minnawi, and the Government of Sudan. With this signed document both sides have now agreed to a framework for substantive negotiations to achieve a cessation of hostilities and to address the root causes of this conflict. We call on both sides to engage in an inclusive and transparent way in the pursuit of an outcome that benefits all people of Darfur – not just those with arms. Lastly, we call on both the Government of Sudan and Sudan Liberation Army – Abdul Wahid to immediately cease all hostilities and engage with the UNAMID Joint Chief Mediator on ways to begin peace talks.

Mr. President, the United States supports the creation of benchmarks and indicators of achievement to strengthen rule of law in Sudan, as proposed by the Secretary General in his October 12 report on the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur. The proposed benchmarks include, inter alia, the establishment of a Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission, a Sudan Police Force presence in all localities, and investigations and prosecutions by Sudan’s judicial system of conflict-related sexual violence and gender-based violence. We acknowledge the government of Sudan’s steps to strengthen judicial institutions through the deployment of judges and prosecutors and encourage the government of Sudan to continue reinforcing that process to ensure that victims of human rights violations and abuses have adequate access to the judicial system.

As the international community’s support of Sudan in Darfur transitions from peacekeeping to peacebuilding, the United States will remain engaged on Darfur. We’ve demonstrated this through the “Phase II” framework for U.S.-Sudan bilateral relations that launched in October 2018 and through continued support to help meet the needs of over 3 million people that require humanitarian assistance in Darfur. This Phase II framework seeks to expand our bilateral cooperation and facilitate gradual but meaningful reforms to enhance stability and strengthen human rights protections and practices in Sudan. This cooperation also aims to support freedom of religion, freedom of expression – particularly for the press – humanitarian access, the cessation of internal hostilities, and a more conducive environment for progress in Sudan’s peace process.

Mr. President, the United States will use all appropriate tools at its disposal to press Sudan to improve human rights practices and protect fundamental freedoms for the people of Darfur. We believe the UN should also make promoting and protecting the human rights of Darfuris the heart of its efforts in Darfur, whether through UNAMID or the evolving UN Country Team presence. The international community must ensure human rights monitoring and reporting continue in Darfur following the drawdown of UNAMID, ideally through the establishment of a full-fledged office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, as called for in the Special Report by the UN Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the African Commission. We are eager to hear from the High Commissioner’s office an update on steps taken towards the establishment of a country office.

Mr. President, the people of Darfur are hungry for peace after 15 years of conflict. A Sudan that adheres to the rule of law, respects human rights, allows unhindered humanitarian access to all populations in need, and breaks the cycle of impunity is one that will enjoy a sustained peace and that will prosper. We remain committed to working with the Government of Sudan to usher in that future.

In closing, I must reiterate longstanding U.S. concerns regarding the ICC. The United States has consistently rejected any assertion of ICC jurisdiction over nationals of states that are not parties to the Rome Statute, absent a UN Security Council referral or the consent of such states. The United States regards any ICC investigation or other activities concerning U.S. or Israeli personnel as illegitimate and unjustified.

Thank you, Mr. President.