The International Criminal Court (ICC) has opened a new war crimes investigation in Sudan, its prosecutor announced on Thursday, stressing that the escalation of violence in the country is of “great concern”. Karim Khan made the announcement in a report to the UN Security Council as the country has been plunged into chaos for three months due to a conflict between two generals who are vying for power.
The court, which sits in The Hague, was seized in 2005 by the Security Council on the situation in the Sudanese region of Darfur and issued an arrest warrant against former leader Omar al-Bashir, including allegations of genocide.
“The truth is that we risk, at this Council and in the world — and as we have more and more information — allowing history to repeat itself; the same appalling story that prompted this Council to refer the situation in Darfur to the ICC in 2005,” Karim Khan told the Council. “The current security situation in Sudan and the escalation of violence during the current hostilities are matters of great concern,” its report said.
“Alleged gang rape campaigns”
The prosecutor’s office can thus “confirm that it has opened an investigation into the incidents that occurred in the context of the current hostilities”. The report said there have been “a wide range of communications” regarding alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sudan since fighting began in April.
Alleged sexual and gender-based crimes, “including alleged gang rape campaigns”, “of particular concern”, are at the center of the new investigation, he added.
Since April 15, the head of the Sudanese army, Abdel Fattah al-Burhane, a close ally of Egypt, has been at war against his ex-number two, General Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, who leads the paramilitaries of the Forces de rapid support (FSR). The conflict for power between the army and the paramilitaries has already left nearly 3,000 dead and three million displaced and refugees, according to the UN.
” Accountable “
The UN envoy to Sudan Volker Perthes, now persona non grata in Khartoum, called for the two generals to be “accountable”. The bodies of at least 87 people believed to have been killed last month in Sudan by paramilitary forces and their allies have been buried in a mass grave in Darfur, the UN said on Thursday.
According to Khan’s report, the risk of further war crimes is “compounded by the clear and long-standing disregard shown by relevant actors, including the government of Sudan, for their obligations”.
Darfur, a vast region in western Sudan, has been ravaged by a civil war that began in 2003 between the Arab-majority regime of Omar al-Bashir and insurgents from ethnic minorities denouncing discrimination. Mr. al-Bashir had sent against the rebellion the armed militia of the Janjawids, which later gave birth to the FSR.
Omar el-Béchir, aged 79, as well as the leaders Ahmed Haroun and Abdel Raheem Hussein have been claimed for more than ten years by the ICC for “genocide” and crimes against humanity during the conflict in Darfur.
The lack of justice for crimes in Darfur in the early 2000s “sowed the seeds for this latest cycle of violence and suffering”, according to Khan. Even before the recent fighting, there was an “even greater deterioration in the cooperation of the Sudanese authorities”, according to its report.
The only person to appear before ICC judges so far is Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman, the former Janjawid militia leader, also known by his nom de guerre Ali Kosheib. The conflict in Darfur has left around 300,000 dead and 2.5 million displaced, according to the United Nations.