Madam President, thank you for your patience and the patience of the distinguished delegates in the room and for the opportunity of briefing the Council yet again. Also, I would like to express my gratitude to the Permanent Representative of Sudan for his attendance at this Council session. And it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge and express very real gratitude to the government of Chad and also the United Nations. It is because of Chad’s cooperation that I’m here on their territory, in N’Djamena. It is because of the assistance of the United Nations that we’re trying to move forward together to discharge the trust and the obligation of independent investigations that you passed us with in Resolution 1593.
And I think this briefing from Chad means an awful lot to the Darfuri communities. They’ve suffered so much for so long. And I’ve had the opportunity of visiting camps in Chad, hearing the accounts of individuals who have suffered trauma, have suffered physical wounds, and they also expressed in every breath their gratitude for Chad for giving them shelter as they literally escaped for their lives with nothing except the clothes on their back.
The events of the last six months and the events that I have the obligation to report to you make sober reading. I have put forward my report that the distinguished delegates have all seen. But the situation is dire by any metric. One in three of the population in the affected parts of Chad are refugees from Sudan. It is a huge number. One in three of the population of Chad in these affected areas are refugees. They’re arriving at a rate faster than Chad, faster than the United Nations can respond. They are entering this country on many occasions with wounds, with injuries. That means that the mortality rates are unacceptably high by any usual metric.
And we see so many other consequences of the events in Darfur: That the vegetation of Chad is fast disappearing in the affected areas; there is a proliferation of weapons from Darfur that appear to be circulating in Chad; and rice supplies are diminishing; resources are stretched. And many of the countries surrounding Chad, surrounding Sudan, are fragile. They are not without their own challenges, without their own problems. And so I’m compelled to conclude and report that it’s my assessment that we are fast approaching a breaking point and that the conflict in Sudan demands your attention now more than ever.
The day before yesterday, Madam President, I had the honor to meet victims. I went to Farchana. I went to the Adré transit area, and I heard directly sitting on the floor with men and women, combined communities, about their accounts and what they’ve endured.
And in Farchana I spoke to one survivor, a tremendously courageous, tremendously elegant, extremely brave Darfuri woman. And I thought it was appropriate, with your leave, to quote her because her voice was repeated by many others. And she said – and I quote, “I was displaced many, many times during the events of 2023. Finally,” she said, “I was displaced to Geneina. And then I fled to Adré and then moved to Farchana. And thereafter we came here barefoot, many of us with no belongings. We still have rancour. We still feel like we are not people, like we are less than human.”
One other survivor in Adré recounted chilling accounts of sexual violence, including allegations of Darfuri women being raped inside a World Food Programme warehouse in West Darfur.
Another person, a gentleman, made it very clear, the animus that they face. These were not individuals embroiled in a conflict, it seems, between two parties, but their accounts were that they were targeted. And this gentleman said, “We were verbally abused, especially the African tribes. We were called ‘Ambai’, which means ‘Blacks’, and were told that they were going to exterminate us. They said, ‘You should end up in Chad as refugees.’”
Madam President, you and the distinguished delegates and the Council know very well that persecution, murder, and rape, in these circumstances, constitute Rome Statute violations. But I also take the opportunity to underline that racism and discrimination, rape and killings, persecution, are also contrary to the basic tenets of Islam that the various parties to the conflict profess to adhere to. And I, therefore, think it apt to recall something that should bind us together and galvanise us to change course. The Prophet of Islam, Prophet Muhammad sallallahu-alayhi-wa-salam, said in his very well-known Last Sermon that, “An Arab is not superior to a non-Arab, nor is a non-Arab superior to an Arab, nor is a black person superior to a white person, nor is a white person superior to a black, except on the basis of righteousness.” And he continued that, “This message should be relayed even to those who were not present that day.” That’s 631 years after Jesus Christ.
The Rome Statute principles, the Rome Statute law that we apply at the ICC is the shared heritage of humanity. It embraces cultures and religions and ethnicities, people of diverse and varied beliefs and backgrounds, and it constitutes the common ground for us to move forward. And it was that collective spirit, that baseline of acceptable conduct, the most basic elemental safeguards, that compelled the Council, in Resolution 1593, to refer the Darfur Situation to my Office.
And as I drove away from Farchana and Adré contemplating the views, the reflections, the pain and the expectations of Darfuris living in the most basic of conditions. I think it put into very stark relief the imperative that we don’t fail them and that they see justice and don’t just hear a promise of justice that they’ve heard for far too long.
And the stories I heard in these camps, sitting with these communities, are not isolated. They’ve been added to by investigations in other countries in the region, by the diaspora. I visited and met 70 Darfuris in London two weeks ago that are also very active in this space, to hear those accounts, the whole community has been uprooted and targeted for many years and they really are concerned that the world is asleep to their suffering. That’s what they feel. That’s what they conveyed. They thought they’re too small, too invisible, too unimportant, too poor to be a real matter of concern to the ICC and also the international community.
As reflected in my report to the Council, the alleged atrocities that have taken place in Geneina form a central line of investigations that my Office is pursuing at this current moment. And I can confirm to the Council that we are collecting a very significant body of material, information and evidence that is relevant to those particular crimes.
The scale of this conflict and the appalling humanitarian repercussions are clear from investigations. They’re clear from numerous reports of the United Nations and other organisations that are documenting and cataloging information on the ground as the influx of people, the caravan of people keeps coming into Chad and neighbouring countries. And we are hearing, the men and women of my Office are hearing the most harrowing accounts possible.
The statistics, of course, are well known:
7.1 million people have been displaced in Sudan, internally displaced in Sudan, since April;
1.5 million people have fled to neighboring countries around Sudan;
More than 555,000 Darfuris have fled into Chad up to December of last year alone;
And over the last nine months, 4,000 to 6,000 have found refuge at the Farchana camp;
And at the Adré transit center that I also visited, they’ve received 166,000 individuals.
These are numbers. We can get lost, of course, in numbers, but these are individuals whose lives have been torn apart. Each of whom has a story of woe, a story of suffering, and they have every expectation that collectively the Security Council, the United Nations, member states, regional organisations, and the ICC can live up to our promises that we have repeatedly made.
I do hope that there’s a dawning realisation amongst the international community that it can’t be business as usual in a negative sense. We can’t continue to apply the law in a piecemeal fashion. The duty to uphold the law, it’s required by the Charter, it’s required by the Rome Statute, it’s required by your own resolutions. And it even is required by self-interest, as properly understood. It compels us in my respectful view to take a different approach to the old problem in Darfur, because we are at risk of a widening and deepening conflagration. It’s bad enough what is happening in Darfur, but there’s a real risk that it can expand in the most profound way. From Libya on the Mediterranean to Sub-Saharan Africa, from Sudan on the Red Sea to the Atlantic, we see a number of areas where conflict seems to be triumphing against the rule of law and deafening out the voices of the most vulnerable people that have a right to protection, that have a right to live in peace, and certainly have a right not to be targeted in relation to Rome Statute violations.
Judicial orders and court judgements alone cannot solve the problem; it would be wonderful if it could. It requires the Security Council, the whole of the United Nations family, the ICC, member states, the international community writ large, to not get overwhelmed by an intractable problem, but to come up with innovative solutions in order to address the catastrophe and also to prevent the contagion of violence from spreading even wider.
But even amidst the darkness, we see a flickering flame of hope that may pierce the gloom, the despair that many feel. That’s what the Darfuri people want. It’s what they expect. And I think it’s the only way forward.
One of the men I met, Madam President, in Farchana, posed a really profound question that I struggled to answer. And I will repeat it, with your leave. He asked me, well, yes, the team has been in Chad in October and December, and we are doing all these things, we are collecting evidence, we are building partnerships with the civil society, we are trying to reach out to anybody that will lend a hand of support for the most vulnerable. But he said, “What makes you believe that the result will be any different than it was 20 years ago?” And one can imagine the difficulty of responding to that very simple and honest, and yet key question.
But the difficulty of the challenge, the complex politics that may surround the situation is no answer to the right of the individual, to the right of the community, to the obligation to enforce international law. And it cannot lead to paralysis and inaction on a scale that leads to such massive bloodshed and suffering.
Cause for hope finds form also in the trial of Ali Kushayb, the trial of Abd-Al-Rahman, which is currently before trial chambers of the International Criminal Court. And in the last reporting period, the Legal Representatives of the Victims closed their case and also the defence case also commenced and defence witnesses have been called.
But we’re confronted with an ugly and inescapable truth that the failure of the international community to execute the warrants that have been issued by independent judges of the ICC has invigorated the climate of impunity and the outbreak of violence that commenced in April that continues today. Without justice for past atrocities, the inescapable truth is that we condemn the current generation. And if we do nothing now, we condemn future generations to suffering the same fate. It can’t be a case of play, rewind and repeat when the people that are seeing the ugly pictures are those affected the most.
Madam President, Excellencies, based on the work of my Office, it’s my clear finding, my clear assessment that there are grounds to believe that presently Rome Statute crimes are being committed in Darfur by both the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces and affiliated groups.
We need to do more. What does that mean? We’ve had many Council sessions. I once again ask for the Council’s support and ask Sudan to comply with good faith with the Resolution 1593 to respond properly to requests for information and assistance to allow investigators into the country. Cooperation must be significantly, substantially and meaningfully improved, notwithstanding the significant challenges facing Sudan at the moment.
We have not received a scrap of paper from the Sudanese Armed Forces. I met with General al-Burhan in September, and he promised cooperation with the ICC. But despite that promise to me, face to face, despite the oft-cited investigative committee that the Sudanese Armed Forces say has been established to catalogue and investigate any allegations of crimes, we have received no information whatsoever. Thirty-five requests for assistance remain unanswered. by the government of Sudan. The only positive development has been the appointment, finally, of a focal point by the government of Sudan and the issuance in December and then in January of single-entry visas into Sudan after many months of requests, and of course not multiple-entry visas that we had been requesting and which I mentioned in my last briefing to the Council. So whatever small movement there’s been in terms of the focal point in the visas, I do ask Sudan and ask the Council to encourage much more accelerated meaningful implementation of the letter and the spirit of Resolution 1593.
And the same really applies to the RSF. In November, we finally received the names of individuals that they contended were part of an investigative committee. But not a scrap of paper, not a scintilla of information has been transferred from the RSF to the Office, either in relation to allegations against the RSF or in relation to any allegations regarding the Sudanese Armed Forces, nor any other affiliated or related armed actors.
By any analysis, the obligation to comply with international humanitarian law cannot be diluted to a ritual incantation to be uttered in some bid to pretend that a party to a conflict is complying with the rule of law or to point the finger against another party for breaches of international humanitarian law without an effort to apply those fundamental legal obligations sincerely, meaningfully for the protection of the most vulnerable.
So, I call once again, Madam President on all parties involved in the conflict to transmit information relevant to our investigations, including in relation to the events that are transpiring today, and that also flared up in April, to my Office without delay. And I also call upon the parties to the conflict to respond meaningfully to the requests for assistance that have been transmitted by the defence team of Mr Abd-Al-Rahman, Mr Ali Kushayb. And I have been very sincere. I’ve repeatedly, and my Office has repeatedly also urged the defence to seek the assistance of my Office to facilitate defence investigations. I repeat that offer today and urge the defence to accept the offer.
So for us to deliver on expectations, it requires your support and the support of all actors. The last period has seen innovative approaches and we’ve managed to collect evidence and information from other sources, notwithstanding all the difficulties in Sudan that I’ve referred to. And I’m pleased to report that there’s been progress in the case of Omar Al Bashir, Mr Hussein, and Mr Harun in which we’ve received evidence that further strengthens those particular cases.
The consequence is too great for us to give up or be fatigued. We have to find a way, in my respectful view and in my considerable analysis, to break the cycle of violence to uphold the potency of the Security Council’s referral itself, and the finding that the events in Darfur threatened international peace and security. And how right you are, how right you were. Because we see that the failure to grasp the nettle of impunity in Darfur has allowed the garden of Sudan to become filled with weeds. And there’s a real risk of this tangled weed to spread in other countries in the region.
The world, of course, is currently facing a pandemic of inhumanity, and we see across the world what can far too easily seem to be an inexorable rise in violence and further suffering. But it’s my genuine belief that even at this fraught moment, international law has a role to play. International law must, we must find a way to make it effective to those that need it the most.
Either the fundamental principles of the UN Charter, the primacy of the Security Council for maintaining international peace and security, the Nuremberg Principles and the Rome Statute jurisdiction that was referred to by the Council have meaning for everybody everywhere, or they have no meaning at all. We survey the globe at the moment and we see this dire need for an equality of treatment and the umbrella of protection and justice must equally be effective for those people in Darfur as it must be in other places of the world.
And that is our challenge, that is our collective responsibility. And we are making every possible effort to work with Council members, with regional organisations, with civil society, with Sudan, with Chad, with anybody so we can make sure we move the dial away from impunity and towards justice and realise that, without accountability, there will be new cycles of violence, further insecurity, more instability around the world.
And as conflicts flare up in other parts of the world, there is a real risk, that many Darfuris fear, that their plight, the situation in Darfur, will be the forgotten atrocity. If it does, it will be the second time the people of Darfur have been failed, humanity at large failed, and we must not collectively allow that to happen.
Thank you so much for your time and for your patience.